In August 2018, just days after playing a ravey headline set at Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire, the visionary techno artist Jon Hopkins found himself attached to a thin rope being lowered 200ft into an ancient cave system deep in the Amazonian jungle of Ecuador. “I’m not really a rugged outdoors type,” admits the 42-year-old over the phone from his studio in Hackney. “But when I get unusual offers I usually just say ‘yes’ without really thinking. Before you know it, you’re descending on this rope into the abyss. It was really f***ing terrifying!”
Hopkins had been invited to the Tayos Caves by Eileen Hall, whose father Stan Hall led an expedition to explore them in 1976. After he died in 2008 Eileen took up his conservation mission, hoping that by raising awareness of the site’s remarkable biodiversity, it would be granted the protection of UNESCO World Heritage status. She put together a new expedition team, including scientists and artists, which is how Hopkins came to be dangling by a thread, journeying into the deep.
At that moment, Hopkins already knew he had reached a turning point in his musical career. His fifth album, Singularity, had been released three months previously, receiving widespread acclaim and a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Hopkins considers Singularity and its predecessor, his Mercury Prize-nominated 2013 record Immunity, to be “sister albums”, with a shared intricate, euphoric and beat-driven sound. For his next record, he wanted to move in a new direction, “far away from a cosmic party or a set of festival bangers”. So he turned his gaze inward, taking inspiration from meditation, which he has practised since he was 21, and his experiences with DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca, a powerful psychedelic brew that Amazonian tribes have been using in spiritual ceremonies for centuries. It was these influences, coupled with his time at Tayos, that led to the creation of a new album unlike any he’s made before, Music for Psychedelic Therapy, a gorgeous musical voyage that draws on ambient, drone and classical music – as well as the sounds of the natural world – and features not a single drum beat.