House albums are a tricky business: with the exception of classics like Daft Punk’s Homework or Disclosure’s Settle, they often come across as a scrapbook of moments that would fit better in an EP or a DJ set. Duke Dumont’s debut album Duality makes some valiant attempts to avoid the trap, with radio edits that give the record a poppy atmosphere and vinyl crackle that sits ever so tastefully in the background throughout.
With the exception of 2015’s Ocean Drive (given a slight update for the album) the music here is new. The Power featuring Zak Abel is a great slice of Camelphat-style tech house, syncopated synths and grooving percussion anchoring the track, while Nightcrawler impresses with its disco-tinged beat and great vocals from Say Lou Lou.
Together eschews house entirely, a gargantuan build that culminates in crashing rock drums as How To Dress Well’s sweet falsetto contrasts with a vocoded refrain. Obey is reminiscent of Go by The Chemical Brothers, a repetitive lyric on top of an insistent synth loop which becomes all the more infectious when the acidic 303 gets added and the metaphorical ice cannons go off.
Sadly, not every track is as successful as this. Love Song is a misstep, shooting for a melancholy vibe but undermined by a simplistic, asinine chord sequence and string embellishments that come across as trite rather than powerful. Similarly, opening track Therapy has great production – rave piano and breakbeats, always a winning combination – but the aimless songwriting leaves this reviewer pining for a dub version.
Over the past decade Duke Dumont has amassed a greatest hits compilation worth of great radio-friendly club tunes, and Duality contains a few more of them, but it also has weak points where the assembly feels rushed and the execution is botched.