Guy and Howard Lawrence of Disclosure have proven that they take everything about the electronic pop genre personally, and that they don’t play games. Over the years, they have have honed their skills in both instrumentation and collaboration, and have slowly become the ideal representation of energetic, mature music. Their sound is practical, organized, and strict in it’s construction, but it still flawlessly allows ample room for expressing those vivid feelings of exaltation. Their contradictory, rebellious techniques were perfect for their re-imagined dance-house vibe they embraced on Settle, their excellent debut album. Now, on their sophomore album, Disclosure seem to leave that meticulous, structured aesthetic behind and instead focus more on the art of functionality rather than the beauty of intense jubilation.
Settle practically revolutionized the realm of dance music, and basically set the reputation for Disclosure as a highly skilled producing duo. Their tracks were hot, fiery, and unapologetic, releasing structured stunners like “When A Fire Starts To Burn” and of course, the show-stopping anthem “Latch,” which basically branded itself as radio bait from the beginning. However, it’s clear that the duo grew tired of catering to the same fast beats, and as a result, the tracks on Caracal are introspective, slower, and more reserved, adding an emphasis on collaboration and a change in influence. There’s no one clear theme or idea that the album epitomizes – considering the album has different vocalists for each track – so the album doesn’t necessarily flow in the best way, but instead focuses intently on individuality. Each track sounds like it’s own vocalist, which gives an impenetrable characteristic to the album as a whole, almost like a game with unlockable characters. Opening track “Nocturnal” introduces the slinky R&B influence that the duo have mentioned flows through incessantly, and it wouldn’t be out of place on The Weeknd’s own album; again driving home the point of characterization and personalization that Disclosure care so intently about. Lorde’s track “Magnets” takes her own jagged, hard-as-nails personality and presents her in a more upbeat light; Miguel’s track “Good Intentions” is seductive and suggestive; and Lion Babe shows off her R&B infused pop in “Hourglass.” It’s a nice touch that resonates incredibly well, even though the songs focus more exclusively on functionality and perfection, leaving the tracks just a touch colorless and void of true energy as a result. The tracks seem to have a calmer disposition, which isn’t necessarily disappointing as it is a backseat to what the duo can really do, and the constant focus on trying to achieve something new tends to grow tiresome towards the end of the album.
However, Disclosure still know how to make an excellent, catchy track, and “Jaded” is exactly that. It features electric vocals from the duo’s own Howard Lawrence, a minor change in their reputed repertoire, and beautifully expands and shrinks with pristine timing and impeccable instrumentation. Despite the changes, the brotherly duo still find their old selves somewhere in the mix, and bring back old techniques. Their initial influence of structured house music is rediscovered in “Holding On” featuring Gregory Porter, and bonus track “Bang That” is as Disclosure that anything could possibly get. They also collaborate with Sam Smith a second time, and the mysterious track “Omen” becomes the textured, exposed descendant to the ambitious, revolutionary “Latch.” It’s still an amazing track and both the vocals and powerful instrumentals compliment each other in a meticulous way that beckons so sweetly to the past. In the end, no matter the influences, Caracal still sounds like Disclosure. When the bar has been set so high from the beginning, it’s hard to keep things going, and at times, it seemed like the duo were so focused on the structure and composition of everything that they forgot to inject the energy. However, with Disclosure, the passion is always, always there, and that’s what ultimately makes them such a force to be reckoned with.
photo by Tom Spray