Modern life is full of distractions, full of thousands of voices, cars, commercials, cat videos, comic book movie trailers, songs, all vying for your ever-weakening attention. Connected-everything technology promises to make that better with to-do lists, reminders, calendars, and organizers, but it is those same devices that also offer the distractions that sliver and shred your focus to ineffective pieces. The noise of distractions adjusts itself to the changing world, trimming text to 140 characters, video to ten seconds, and entire news stories into a series of headlines. The bite-sizing of noise is what brought gifs back from their Geocities-tainted grave. The noise prevents anything beyond a brief glance, a shallow scanning of the surface of whatever your focus is on, and we slowly lose detail and depth. There is no room for nuance or close examination. Time is too precious. Luckily, the noise also provides an easy method to regurgitate the information, often entirely unchanged or commented on.
Modern life is not all rubbish, though. That’s the saving grace of the wall of day to day distractions, is the solution is buried in the machine. It’s not hard to find, but it is hard to get yourself to the point where you can make the time to find it. Or, in the case of Jon Hopkins, for it to find you.
When you need to press pause on the world, you’ll need a means of drowning out the noise, of building an environment in which you can ignore the clock, your phone, all the notifications, and anything but what you want to hear. For me, that’s been Sunday Sounds alumni Ulrich Schnauss on his gorgeous release from 2003, “A Strangely Isolated Place.” It invokes a calm I’ve only ever felt staring at ocean waves come in at a beach. But I’d kind of beaten the album into the ground. I hadn’t moved on to a different work because I liked the feeling of calm that album instilled.
So I tempted fate, opening up my phone and finding suggestions related to Ulrich, and figured I was on the right track when I saw Boards of Canada and Tycho listed under Related Artists. I chose Jon Hopkins because Jamie xx chose Jon Hopkins. I trust Jamie xx’s musical taste implicitly, and his between-weekend show for Coachella next month popped his name in my radar, but I had yet to seek out his music.
I chose his eight-song LP from 2013, titled “Immunity,” and the noise of the world began to fade away. It may not take me to the beach, but it does hold me in a grip of calm, my attention span swaddled like a baby. I feel like doctors should start bundling Jon Hopkins with Adderall and Ritalin prescriptions. “Take two LP’s and call me in the morning, after you’ve read the newspaper, walked the dog, ran three loads of laundry and cleaned your kitchen.”
This Sunday, find the means to drown out the world without drowning yourself. Find your own Jon Hopkins, or Ulrich Schnauss. Or, of course, you can always borrow mine.