Release Date: Sep 25, 2015
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Garage, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, 2-Step/British Garage
The Footlocker funk of Disclosure’s 2013 debut ‘Settle’ saw them shoot to Number One, go platinum and scoop up a host of Grammy, Mercury and Brit Award nominations. The album sounded like the future of house, birthing six singles (‘White Noise’ was the peak, reaching Number Two) and reinvigorating dancefloors by plundering 1990s UK garage and melding it with joyous pop.For the follow-up, Disclosure have decided to take things more seriously. On the glossily-produced ‘Caracal’ there seems, at first, to be something curiously out of cultural kilter with Guy and Howard Lawrence.
If you’re a dance act with two successful albums, you’ve definitely made it. This is largely because, with dance music tending to have a shorter shelf life, second albums rarely live up to the hits and promise of the first. So can Disclosure follow up the massive success of Settle with something equally alluring? The initial signs are strong. As the loping beat to Nocturnal makes itself known, a glossy production is revealed – and at the top is The Weeknd, whose vocals lead a paean to the delights of the small hours.
Settle was an unqualified success. Platinum, number one, and nominated for a Mercury Prize in Disclosure's native U.K., it was also Grammy-nominated in the U.S. "Latch," the album's propellant, primed vocalist Sam Smith for stardom. The Lawrence brothers subsequently worked with Nile Rodgers and Mary J.
In the twenty or so years since Daft Punk and The Chemicals first emerged, there really hasn't been a band who've been able to touch either of them. But Guy and Howard Lawrence touched the same nerve on their debut that Daft Punk did with 'Homework', and with their second album they're on course to hit the heights that Thomas and Guy did with 'Discovery': crucially, America is ready.But while 'Bang That' was something of a misfire, Gregory Porter proves the perfect foil on proper comeback single 'Holding On': calling in Armand and Bashmore to remix proved that there really isn't anyone they can't call up. That black book has clearly come in handy when it comes to guest stars, too.
After the varied appeal of a debut like Settle, the more honed-in sensibilities of house duo Disclosure’s latest album Caracal might strike some listeners as an unnecessary deviation from what was already working so well. Electronic, pop, and indie tastemakers were all over Settle as an international and inter-genre smash, a breaking-down of barriers that were already crumbling for most of the last ten years. Looking at Disclosure’s surprisingly quick advancement into mainstream recognition and success after their debut, it makes more sense that they’d focus on the elements of their music that catapulted them there, and with the success of R&B-tinted singles like “Latch”, “F For You”, and “You & Me”, late night soul has become a defining element of Disclosure’s sound; consequently, Caracal is much more focused on vocal talent than any other component of its smoky, star-studded house, for better and for worse.
Though the backlash seems inevitable at this point, only the most capricious would deny the brothers Lawrence remain in direct correspondence with the grimy roots of deep house music on their sophomore effort,Caracal. Leading up to the album's release, Disclosure cobbled together a “Songs for the Summer” playlist on Spotify that led off (following the no-doubt obligatory selections from their own catalogue) with the realest selection imaginable: Kerri Chandler's titanic “Rain. ” Chandler has always had an uncanny ability to hone in on the details of his house tracks: the illusion of expanse within highly restricted sonic parameters, the accumulation of cleanliness from clattering spare parts, the limber virtuosity of his playful basslines.
Disclosure’s landmark 2013 debut, Settle, opened with a scorched-earth policy. On “When a Fire Starts to Burn,” Guy and Howard Lawrence set a hammering, breakneck tempo for a vocal sample from Eric Thomas, the self-proclaimed “Hip-Hop Preacher,” who sounds like he’s gasping after every line from the effort of trying to keep up with the banger itself. The British siblings faced a similar risk of being outpaced in their own rise to behind-the-boards fame: the “fire” they helped spread was the redefinition and popularization of the genre deep house, which shaped how a new generation of ravers understood “underground” dance music that still toppled worldwide charts.
Looking back, the intro to Disclosure’s Settle almost reads like a warning to their future selves: "As much as you like to control your environment, the reality is, everything changes. " Sure enough, Guy and Howard Lawrence’s sophomore full-length Caracal arrives just two years later but in a markedly different pop landscape—thanks in no small part to the brothers' own influence. Their pristine syntheses of UK garage, Midwestern vocal house, and hook-happy pop structures re-oriented the British pop charts and trickled into the American ones, opening the doors for pop-adjacent neo-house acts like Duke Dumont, Years & Years, and Rudimental (not to mention for Sam Smith).
Let’s face it: Nobody can replicate the fireball that Disclosure shot out of the gate two years ago, not even the Lawrence brothers themselves. Even now, Settle feels like a milestone. It drew dubstep-level fervor to honest-to-goodness house music, even if it was house music for people who didn’t care much about learning house music’s roots. It was the record that launched Sam Smith’s career.
Ultimately, only one star matters on a great dance record: the beats. The follow up to Disclosure's 2013 debut, Settle — the most potent club-pop fusion LP since the heydays of Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers — flexes a fantastically upscaled vocal roster befitting the duo's arena-level success. But DJ magic sometimes takes a backseat to those Jumbotron personas.
2013’s Settle, the debut album from producers Guy and Howard Lawrence, AKA Disclosure, helped cement dance music’s current domination, offering a finessed alternative tothe perceived crash, bang, wallop of EDM. Follow-up Caracal replicates that album’s template – dinner-party deep house, bubbling UK garage, a smattering of guest vocalists – but, for the most part, loses its personality. Too often the songs feel either overly familiar (the Sam Smith-assisted Omen, the AlunaGeorge-esque Superego), or strangely undercooked.
Two things stood out from Disclosure’s big deal debut ‘Settle’. One was its ability to merge famous faces with new names on a star-studded tracklist. Another was how brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence established a signature sound of their own. Not quite full-on house, always on the fringes of outright chart-hungry pop, it turned a fine balancing act.
It begins not with a banger, but with a sultry slow-burner, featuring the perennially dejected vocals of the Weeknd and establishing a slick, subdued style for the follow-up to their platinum-selling Settle. On Caracal, much of the adolescent euphoria that coursed through Disclosure’s debut has been diluted, the duo’s dayglow face paint replaced with musky Davidoff. In their bid to become suave and seductive, they sacrifice the energy and rapturous pop hooks of their debut: apart from the heady live favourite Bang That, there are no surprises, no risks.
There's practically no other way this could've gone for Guy and Howard Lawrence. Just over two years ago, Settle and its pack of effusive dance floor earworms dominated charts, raked in critical acclaim and catapulted the careers of everyone involved. Disclosure's debut full-length wasn't ubiquitously adored, but it was an album that everyone talked about.
Poke around Disclosure’s Soundcloud page, and you’ll see the same chalky jaw outline stamped on each guest singer. They’ll tell you it’s part of their brand (well, they’ll use the word 'aesthetic', but we know better). But that outline symbolizes their true objective, i.e. to patent a lukewarm dance pop boilerplate that the duo can impose onto any singer of their choice whilst still retaining ownership of their product.
Around the time Guy Lawrence (the older Disclosure sibling) was toddling about and before Howard Lawrence (the younger Disclosure sibling) was even conceived, many respected DJs and producers were playing unforgettable sets in underground clubs and warehouses and creating indelibly classic dance tracks. It took two decades and the Lawrence brothers’ skills as songwriters and producers to bring those sounds—which never made it out of the underground in the U.S.—to the mainstream with their album Settle. Disclosure’s second album, Caracal, makes those one-time underground sounds even more accessible.
By the time whispers of a second LP became audible to more than just three or four qualified people, Guy and Howard Lawrence were staring down the barrel of a terrifying potential future. Lest anyone forget, Caracal was more-or-less announced via a published memo denying allegations that certain tracks off Disclosure’s outstanding debut LP Settle featured plagiarized lyrics. Of course the brothers were innocent, but it was a moot point.
Disclosure’s debut album struck chart gold by fusing the melancholic after-hours soul of late 90s deep house with the rubbery bass lines and exaggerated swing of early 00s 2-step, mixed into a hazy gloss of contemporary R&B. On the UK duo’s second record, they’ve refined that formula so that every track sounds like a potential hit. Big-name guests provide vocals again, including the Weeknd, Sam Smith, Miguel and Lorde (see below).
Disclosure performs onstage at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sept. 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. British electronic duo Howard and Guy Lawrence struck platinum straight out of the box in 2013 with Disclosure's debut album, "Settle." The album most notably launched singer Sam Smith, whose vocal on cross-over hit "Latch" stamped Disclosure as an outlier on the burgeoning EDM scene – a dance act that put as much emphasis on songs as it did the beats.