Album Review: Duke Dumont – Duality (2020)

Having seen a track such as ‘Ocean Drive’ on the tracklist for this album – one of the best songs ever written, may I add – I had a feeling that this album could be an extension of ‘Escape’, Gorgon City’s 2018 album. The same night house vibes, the same experimental vibes at times, with clear 90s influence. I was not disappointed; and may I add that the comparison is a positive; ‘Escape’ is one of my favourite albums of all time (and features a Duke Dumont collab, ‘Real Life’).

‘Therapy’, the opening track on this album, has good vibes and a powerful female vocal from Sharlene Hector. It’s no surprise that this landed Duke Dumont his seventh Billboard Dance #1. This leads straight into ‘The Power’, another single, featuring vocals from Zak Abel. ‘Obey’ is the third track, which contains an authoritative voice and more aggressive beats and melodies. It would not have surprised me if this was an Example track. I really enjoy it; it’s the most club-ready song on ‘Duality’.

Another great track is ‘The Fear’, with vocals from Niia. Combining chilled house with a strings synth and haunting vocals, this could soundtrack any evening. I’ve already added this one to my playlist, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this quickly made it to the top of my most played. Based on a first listen, this is one of my favourite songs in recent years.

‘Nightcrawler’ incorporates a funk bassline into the mix, and it works. Although quite a calming song, the bass makes it irresistable to do at least a shuffle to this song. This aside, it’s nothing too stand-out from the rest of the first half of the album, but that’s not a bad thing. ‘Duality’ has a clear vibe, and it’s sticking to it. Rather than being an album of assorted singles which don’t go all that well together, this is an experience, more like a soundtrack to a night with a chill in the air.

Thousands of words have been devoted to ‘Ocean Drive’ since it’s release in 2015. It has become Adam’s most successful track to date, at least in terms of streams. Shockingly, it didn’t hit the top 40 in the UK charts. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that ‘Duality’ was structured around this song. It has summer night written all over it, and five years on, I still smile and sing along every time it comes on (which, spoiler alert, is at least once a week).

The next song on the album is ‘Together’, with experimental electronic singer-songwriter How To Dress Well. Think Daft Punk, but a little less robotic. I like the song as it’s own entity, especially from the 2 minute mark, with it’s rousing build up and beat, however I’m not too sure it fits with the album all that well.

Every house-influenced album seems to have to have a melancholic, 5 to 6 minute dance track which is undoubtedly sad, but more of the kind where you’re sad that the party is over. You know, when you’re lying in the corner of the room, and all sorts of memories are flooding your mind? Duality’s moment like this is ‘Love Song’, which is just brilliant. I love how it is pondering and emotional for four minutes, with the words ‘I love you’ interspersed over a calm beat, before rising into an uplifting finale with what sounds like a string orchestra. I actually love the classical influences which this album has; this is compounded with the piano ‘Overture’ which follows ‘Love Song’ and sets the scene for the grand finale.

‘Let Me Go’ features RY X. If it was looking to create a highly-charged drama, it certainly achieves it. It never stops building. There is 1:40 of RY singing over a chorus of his own harmonies and a piano beat, before an ethereal sound arrives, bringing it with nostalgic 90s-trance vibes, and consumes the next 1:40. Then it turns into an underground techno dance track, which then incorporates more strings and the words ‘Let Me Go’. It builds again until it collapses thirty seconds from the end, and returns to the haunting vocals over a single piano note, once every four beats.

‘Duality’ is a very worthy album, and it surprised me slightly when I found out it was Duke Dumont’s debut album; I’ve been listening to him since 2014! I am certainly not disappointed, and it joins a growing list of alternative electronic projects that only really feel right to play at 2am. Of course, I would also recommend playing this at any time you like!

I referred to ‘Escape’, Gorgon City’s brilliant 2018 album. Here is a link to my review of it!

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