Review Summary: Dust off your binky.
“Bro, wait until you hear this epic drop. Wait. Wait. BOOOOM! Crazy right? Oh hold on, hold on, theirs a killer glitch breakdown coming up. What? No no, hang on. Aw right there, yes! After this, there’s a three part didgeridoo break followed by a flute solo. It’s so nuts, they auto-tune everything and its so radical.”
Does anyone else feel like we’re being fed gimmicks? It seems like when the American dubstep goldrush happened in 2009, innovation kind of froze. An easy to replicate formula sent kids scrambling to festivals by the thousands. A cottage industry of producers sprang up overnight, their overblown drops indistinguishable from one another. Dance music started playing catch up with dubstep for the next big pleasure button and began throwing glitch breakdowns all over the place. Now the two genres are dueling for festival supremacy, constantly one upping the other for sheer annoyance.
There’s nothing wrong with a good break down every once in a while, but the problem is these elements are now working against the songs, sounding almost completely removed from their surroundings in a desperate attempt to surprise. Taking dubstep from the back streets of London to the Civics of stoners didn’t do the genre many favors.
So it is with great relief that I can recommend Disclosure’s debut album Settle
as a completely gimmickless dance pop album. No trendy guests, no unnecessary breakdowns, no awkward rap verses, just a rock solid dance pop album.
Emphasis on the pop, because like most great pop, Settle
cribs all the best part of dance music, the rise/fall dynamics, the sultry guest artists, and leaves the bits that only work on the dance floor to the remixes. What you get is a wonderfully tight combination of house, UK Funky, and late 90’s big beat all wrapped up in 6 minutes or less.
hits the ground hard. After a brief mission statement/intro, we get right to the payoff. Flipping an unconventional Eric Thomas sample, “When a Fire Starts to Burn”, gives you just enough time to grab your drink and carve out a space on the dance floor. A hollow synth line piles on the hook and the vocal sample cuts in and out right as it verges on getting annoying. Track one of their debut and its clear we’re in the hands of professionals.
Lead single “Latch” is the closest the album gets to a bass drop. While Sam Smith harks back to era of male divas like Terrence Trent D’Arby as he loses himself in the melody, it holds it for the late chorus, playing up the tension of the verses, the cloud breaking pre-chorus, and finally, the roller-coaster plunge. It doesn’t feel cheap and it doesn’t wreck the songs momentum for the sake of volume, it just feels awesomely gratifying. It’s not going to blow the trunk lid off your car but it wont send you scrambling for the volume knob either.
UK hit, “White Noise” deploys an increasingly essential AlunaGeorge to play coquette. “If you wanna get tough, lets get rough,” she beckons from the corner of the club as Duplo block synths chirp and worm their way around the mix. Album highlight “Defeated No More” keeps a sweeping synth wave under wraps until opening it up for a cheer at the end of every line. Edward Macfarlane, like all the guests here, keeps in mind that he isn’t the star of the show and works the beat through its paces, throwing in tasteful and well-timed backing vocals. “Help Me Lose My Mind” gracefully twists through the moonlit skyline on a coolly pulsing verse before arcing skyward on its soaring, London Grammar delivered chorus.
The albums only flaw is it never feels like Disclosure are taking any major risks here. Granted, it is a debut album, and as a debut album it succeeds wildly, showcasing the arrival of two producers with loads of promise but from time to time the album plays it a little too safe. “Stimulation,” “Grab Her!”, and “January” are all fine, but lack a strong hook to leave an impression. Basement Jaxx were always clever in this regard, making sure to leave a “Being With U”, “Do Your Thing”, or “Living Room” somewhere in the album to keep us on our toes. “Second Chance” comes close, but doesn’t go far enough to make it a real change up.
But that’s a minor tear in an otherwise excellent album. If you or anyone you know has felt burned by dance music’s holes-in-the-brain burnout over the last few years, this is an easy recommendation. It showcases not only the considerable talents of Guy and Howard Lawrence, but their guests are a who’s who in boundary pushing R&B, dance, and dub music. Disclosure are already making a big noise across the pond, three of its singles have been top twenty hits. If only we could get them to chart over here.