The dark cloud looming over the music industry today is the fact that artists aren’t just competing with people making their own music, but with music that’s accessible for virtually nothing. It’s especially evident where thumping electronica is involved — with Ableton, a used synthesizer from Craigslist, and a relatively quiet space, you can create an album and share it on a global scale.
Yet within the brazen world of electronica artistry, UK duo Disclosure have established a very specific niche in the widened range of beat-threaded projects that permeates the Internet sphere on a second-by-second basis. Settle – the title Disclosure chose for their debut — is strange to think of in the sense of “settling,” which is accepting something just because it’s comfortable, or easy, or because you think things can’t improve. Settle is about what it’s like to not settle –- what it’s like to always be on the move.
Historically, the U.K. has produced our most emotive electronica, from Portishead’s cinematic swells to the apocalyptic knocks of Burial at your door. Today, Disclosure furthers the tradition of U.K. electronica mastery, melding fearless funkadelic riffs, a refined touch of disco, and the subgenre garage, a splintering of dance that emerged in the late ‘90s featuring a mélange of R&B vocals, classic dance tracks, and a focus on drum-machine dynamics.
A cornerstone of this twentysomething generation is overexposure. For a duo that goes by simply Disclosure, this might be obvious -– after all, the young brothers behind the synthesizers, Howard and Guy Lawrence, are just 22 and 19, respectively. Yet in a twist of irony, nothing about Disclosure is blatant despite the round-up of the U.K’s best and brightest vocal talent today, including the amazing AlunaGeorge and Jessie Ware.
What’s truly marvelous about Settle is its playful accessibility despite its overt sexuality. The album transcends sound and movement — you feel as though you can manipulate it with your own hands, like Play-Doh in a sonic form. The album’s “Intro” is a reminder of the group’s thick J Dilla appreciation; it revs, preparing you for what’s ahead. The album cuts and curves with a finesse that doesn’t sound like a pair of brothers recording their first album. It even has its own voice, in the same way that the jump-funk cuts and crackling snares made Dilla’s sound distinctively his while putting Detroit on the map. A minute later, “When a Fire Starts To Burn” trails off, and the thumps crawl in. You fill in the rest.
During interviews, Disclosure themselves have admitted to not writing lyrics well, but they’re quite conceptual, thematically tied together, focused on dismissing authority and finding a voice that’s your own. “White Noise” (featuring the vocal stylings of AlunaGeorge) is as sultry as club anthems get, thanks to lines like “I don’t need you giving it straight to me.” Settle isn’t about submission, but it’s impossible to not be completely won over by AlunaGeorge’s subterranean echoes and that intoxicating, fluttering key riff that punctuates the entire track. The undaunted “Defeated No More” may be the record’s most blantant R&B number, featuring the slick sighs of guest vocalist Ed Macfarlane. It’s filled with reckless abandon, dismissing defeat while bearing traces of disco-funk rhythms, resembling the younger cousin of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September”.
But god, those dance numbers. The diaphragm-rumbling busts of “Stimulation” are just so dextrous and cool, filled with such an “elevation” that you can’t just help but throw your hands towards the heavens. In the latter half, the album slides into one of the duo’s best tracks, the icily cool, MPC-bouncing “Grab Her”. Club queen Jessie Ware ensnares you through the sleek trembles of “Confess to Me”, a provocative throwback to Skream’s self-titled release in 2006 that, along with Burial, helped light the match to dubstep.
That credit given, Disclosure masters the R&B slow-burners just as well on Settle. “Latch” locks onto your ear with vocalist Sam Smith crooning “I feel we’re close enough/ I want to liken your love” with the soul-star power you’d expect from Usher or R. Kelly. The warbling “Second Chance” slows down the pace considerably with bleeps and gloops, recalling the molasses-slow grooves of LA’s Friends of Friends mainstays, particularly Shlohmo and Groundislava.
Slinky enough for the club, down-tempo enough for a rooftop soiree, Settle traverses boundaries and expectations. It takes on a skin of its own with an inherent, but unhurried immediacy. In this case, believe the hype — it’s well deserved, because this album is simply so engaging and easy to love. Embrace Disclosure with open arms. These guys aren’t going anywhere, except nestled deep in your heart.
Essential Tracks: “Stimulation”, “Grab Her”, and “White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge)”