House music (and EDM in general) is an extremely saturated market. Based more on singles than albums and collections, and DJ sets as opposed to gig nights and tours, it’s common for producers to have one big hit then return to the underground. There is less scope for DJs to create albums which are little more than compilations of their best-known songs. Even less for them to actually be good and actually be doing something different.
This is what makes ‘Escape’, Gorgon City’s second album, stand out. Although its release hardly blew the world away, that says more about the direction British music has taken in the five years since they broke out with ‘Ready For Your Love’ in 2014. Dance-pop has left the mainstream charts, replaced by hip-hop, grime, and a slew of scarily similar singer-songwriters who seem to be little more than Ed Sheeran clones. Album charts have always been ruled by rock bands and pop singers.
The big problem for DJs is this: how do they make every song sound different to what someone else is putting out? And failing that, how do they make their song stand out from the crowd? Escape’s opener ‘Kingdom’ encompasses that. It is nothing new, but with Raphaella’s brilliant vocals and an extremely catchy hook, along with a feel-good message, ensure that once you’ve heard it once, you don’t want it to stop.
That isn’t to say that Gorgon City don’t try anything different. ‘Hear That’ features the vocals of D Double E, a rapper more known for grime. It is far from the most expected collaboration, but it works. Though not my favourite on the album, it’s uniqueness makes it feel fresh on an album which has precisely zero skips. (The lyrics always make me laugh for some reason too).
There are also a couple of big collabs. ‘Real Life’ features Duke Dumont and the breathy vocals of NAATIONS, and was arguably the biggest hit of the album. One Last Song, with JP Cooper, manages to blend both artists’ individual sounds and they combine to make a very memorable mix. London singer Vaults features on ‘All Four Walls’, a banger which hasn’t left my playlists since it was first released back in 2016.
Above all else, ‘Escape’ strikes me as a concept album. Although filled with floor-fillers, the sound which prevails throughout and towards the end is that of a 3am drive, in the suburbs of a city. ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Night Drive’ both feature break beats over a smoky background, with soft female vocals (NAATIONS & Kelly Kiara) only adding to the atmosphere. ‘Love Me’, although at times painfully repetitive has a similar feel, and is also a song which you could belt out when you’re alone and instantly lift your mood; the same could be said for ‘Never Enough’. A special mention must be made for ‘Overdose’, which takes the unusual step of using Josh Barry’s voice as an instrument during the breakdowns. Yet it works.
‘Escape’ takes you to a different world where you can be chilled and feel truly yourself, and reminds you that life is your own destiny. It achieves it while being familiar enough that it doesn’t alienate you, while being different enough that it doesn’t evade your memory. It’s an experience worth having.