Album Review: Gorgon City – Olympia (2021)

From the opening bars of ‘Tell Me It’s True’, you just know that Olympia is going to be a masterpiece…..

Three years after their criminally underrated second album ‘Escape’, the best duo in house music have returned for ‘Olympia’. Would those roaming Ancient Greece have appreciated the nod? You’ve certainly got to have balls to give your album such a grandiose title – but Gorgon City have backed it up with an incredible sequence of tracks which build on their past and incorporate modern soundscapes to create an beautiful, ethereal masterpiece.

‘Never Let Me Down’ is the single which got me really excited for this release. Utilising a nostalgic piano melody with an upbeat sound and intoxicating vocals from Hayley May, this sounds fully set in the 1990s but with the sleek production of 2021. It’s the brightest track on the album and belongs at the centre of festivals all summer long. Just imagine dancing to this at sunset……… when coupled with ‘Sweet Temptation’, the next track, there’s a serious danger you’ll ascend into the drunken heaven of love. While their last album was called ‘Escape’, this takes you even more subtly to a different world.

Last spring I was shocked and delighted to see Gorgon City had made a song with another of my favourite artists, Sofi Tukker. ‘House Arrest’ was never really one of my favourites – maybe the pandemic-tinged title damaged it for me? – but I can fully appreciate how beautiful it is. It’s definitely more GC than ST – there’s none of the madcap intensity which has populated their career so far, and it showcases once again the dark, bass-driven sound which Gorgon City have made their trademark.

Some familiar faces make appearances here – some who have appeared on their previous releases, others who have become big names in recent months. DRAMA’s husky vocals elevate the sparse moodiness of ‘Nobody’, in a way which suits her voice more than ‘You’ve Done Enough’, which could be the big hit of the album if streaming stats are anything to go by. Jem Cooke has become one of the most recognisable voices of dance, and while track four ‘Dreams’ is beautiful, ‘Ecstasy’ might be the highlight of the whole album. Everything from her voice to the backing alarm feels weightless, and there’s definitely a nostalgic aura – I can’t place where from. This song has to be the peak of the current trend to forgo the bridge, instead having the structure intro-verse-chorus-postchorus-verse-chorus-postchorus-outro, which allows for a breezier, more relaxed production.

‘Lost Feelings’ is so beautiful and so emotional it has pure crying-on-the-dancefloor energy. The track takes inspiration from the intoxicating blend of progressive and tech house which has become mainstream with CamelPhat’s beautiful releases, while the presence of more classical piano and strings add an authentic, shiny gloss. ‘Tears’ with Grace Grundy follows, and to start with, there’s a stunning contrast, but it moves into the same territory as the last song. Another one to add to the sad playlist – but in the most beautiful way.

One thing I’ve never minded with Gorgon City – and don’t get me wrong, this is unique to their music – is the volume of tracks which are 5 minutes long. They don’t rush to make a song vapid and three minutes for the radio, instead they imbue their art with a calm assurance that doesn’t care for the charts, creating an unrushed, chilled ambience which fills the listener with patience and the knowledge that the pay-off will be huge. ‘Waiting For The Right Time’, a largely instrumental piece, is the zenith of this philosophy – it’s just pure class.

EVAN GIIA’s incredible performance on ‘Burning’ makes this another stand out. This is a far shorter track, but it doesn’t lose anything for it. A thumping beat and a sound which seems closer to bassline than Gorgon City have ever made before fuses perfectly to create the catchiest track here. ‘Thoughts of You’ is trance at its finest, combining with more old-school breakbeats and heavy reverb to create a dark, ethereal ambience. Josh Barry made two appearances on ‘Escape’ and returns for ‘Freedom’, the perfect finale here. A more downtempo, sorrow ending, this seems to encapsulate Gorgon City – they’re unbounded by their past success, by label expectations, or by the charts. They do what they want, and it sounds incredible.

Most albums last 35 minutes and feel too long and have too much filler. ‘Olympia’ is double the length – but it feels perfect. ‘Escape’ took you to another world, one of a dark, forest night; ‘Olympia’ keeps you in the world with everyone else, but still provides a different escape, one with more nostalgic roots. Gorgon City are on top form, and are more confident than ever before. This is 18 tracks of bliss – and quite simply, this is the album of the summer.

Ryan’s Rating: 10/10

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