You’d be hard pressed to find an artist who fits Late Night Tales better than Jon Hopkins. His thoughtful approach towards techno, inclusive attitude towards the mainstream, and penchant for the lugubrious may as well describe the series itself. Here, he assumes the role of dreamweaver with all the comfort of a man slipping into his favorite pajamas.
or over a decade, the Late Night Tales mix series has found extended life by providing artists—mostly European, mostly centrally located in the indie-dance continuum—with an acceptable venue for their post-whatever tracklists. Essentially just natural runoff from the glut of afterparty compilations that overstuffed the "various" placards in dance music sections in record stores everywhere for most of the early 2000s, Late Night Tales’ big trick is a semantic one. By reframing these mixes so they’re more about a non-specific 3 A.M. state of mind as opposed to corny aspirational moods (lest we forget "chillout") or Balearic Valhallan ideals (the café, the beach house), the series has widened its brief to allow for more forms of early morning contemplation, in turn becoming a sort of Rorschach test for its contributing artists.
Thanks to appearances from the likes of Air, Röyksopp, and Belle and Sebastian, the series has uncovered all manner of post-party comedown gentleness and record collection curiosities, but you’d be hard pressed to find an artist who fits the profile of the ideal Late Night Tales subject better than Jon Hopkins. Coming off the back of his breakthrough, 2013’s Immunity, Hopkins is a session musician with a thoughtful approach towards techno, an inclusive attitude towards the mainstream (he’s worked with Imogen Heap and Coldplay) and a default setting that tends towards the lugubrious, all values that might as well describe the label itself.
Hopkins assumes the role of resident dreamweaver with all the comfort of a man slipping into his favorite pajamas. The album’s opening section is a confidently strung together sequence of shimmering pianos, arpeggiated synths, gently plucked strings, and yawning techno that culminates in Nils Frahm’s effervescent "More" and immediately establishes Hopkins’ touch for the featherlight. A composerly sensibility informs the rest of the mix, not only courtesy of contributions from fellow composers Frahm, Ben Lukas Boysen, David Holmes, and Peter Broderick, but also in the way Hopkins deploys solo instrumentals to close chapters and cleanse palettes. Between Boysen’s opener ("Sleepers Beat Theme"), Helios’ closer ("Emancipation"), and the album’s centerpiece (Hopkins’ solo piano cover of Yeasayer’s "I Remember"), Late Night Tales feels as neatly demarcated into three acts as any film or book.
In between those three pillars sits an equitable spread of current electronic (Holy Other, Teebs, and Four Tet), folk music (Alela Diane, Songs of Green Pheasant) and indie rock (School of Seven Bells, HEALTH, Jónsi & Alex). Hopkins moves easily between genres; like the airy music he’s selected, many of his transitions feel almost invisible. While that’s mostly a good thing, it’s easy to miss a little bit of range from this set of songs. With the exception of Letherette’s "After Dawn"—which is pretty much the only moment that things push past third gear, and which sounds especially great in the context of so much gossamer music—there aren’t even any tiny tremors to be felt from Late Night Tales. In the end, though, that feels like a minor quibble in the face of such a mix; this is an inspired collection of songs, even if you do get the feeling Hopkins prefers to spend his late nights alone.
By: Pitchfork (7.9 Rating)