Review Summary: Disclosure's debut album is as flawless a collection of house/pop music you'll ever find.
The essence of house is repetition. Built for the endurance dancer, house establishes a groove and lets the groov-ee find a pocket and shimmy into it. There’s nothing so disruptive as a drop or a bridge that might disturb the rhythm. House is designed to stretch out over 8 minutes to 20 minutes to even an hour long. It lets the dancer intertwine themselves in the groove and let the night slide by. But because of it’s dependence on repetition, house doesn’t work as well outside of a dancefloor.
The essence of pop music is variety. Drops, bridges, codas, climaxes, harmonies, spoken word passages, bagpipe solos, anything
is fair game as long as it keeps the listener entertained. Its barrier of entry is nonexistent, pop music is for everyone. But in its quest to hold attention pop music must be short, 2 to 5 minutes max. Because of this, pop music doesn’t work very well on a dance floor. Just as you’re finding your groove the song’s over.
These two genres have found common ground but only twice has perfect album length synthesis been achieved. 13 years ago London duo Basement Jaxx released their candysprawl sophomore record Rooty
. That album copped house’s sense of lift and rhythm while cranking the variety meter till the knob broke. But all that variation, as fun as it is, means Rooty
leans hard to the pop side of pop/house and can prove a little too schizophrenic to dance to. The second flawless album length house/pop combo arrived just last year, and leans to the other side of pop house, by another English duo. Disclosure’s debut effort Settle
, for all its fantastic hooks, is a house album at heart. There’s a distinct sense of patience here, of each element getting all the room it needs to stretch and breath. You end up inhabiting these songs before the singers do. From the tiny Lego squares of “White Noise” to the chunky Duplo swooshes of “Defeated No More” there’s an unmistakable blockiness to Disclosure’s synths. These songs are assembled brick by brick right between your ears. You can almost see the timeline of whatever program they were assembled on go rushing by. Earlier tracks by the duo only hinted at the amount of refinement and expertise on display here. Spot the influence only crops up when Settle
isn’t being listened to. When it’s on, they own every second.
Opening with the most necessary intro track of 2013, “Intro” functions as a headspace reset. Someone thuds up a few stairs, a key clicks into a lock, and a door is opened. Disclosure welcomes you into their swanky as hell loft party, and who else to show you around then… Eric Thomas? Yes the voice introducing you to Settle
is Arizona native Eric Thomas the Hip Hop Preacher. “One thing I know about life is the guarantee, change is inevitable!
,” he declares over walloping bass and swimming synths. Then, as the intro winds down, Eric Thomas starts reaching for something just out of memory “It-it-it’s spontaneous combustion is what I think they call it, and what happens is.” The intro then segues seamlessly into the meteoric first track “When a Fire Starts to Burn”. A genius sample flip turns Thomas’ condemnation of apathy into an irresistible call to the dance floor. Over an absolutely titanic bassline Thomas enthuses, “When a fire starts to burn, right? And it starts to spread, she gon’ bring that attitude home. They don’t want to do nothin’ with their life.” What does that have to do with dancing? Hell if I know but damn does it slay. This is Disclosure at full tilt, considering nothing else but creating the biggest club thumper they can, and there’s still 12 tracks to go.
Major label money means major label guest stars but nobody is here for the sake of hype. Alunageorge plays a compelling game of cat and mouse on the additive “White Noise”. During the chorus Disclosure throw some bass behind the song’s needle point riff, giving extra muscle to Aluna’s climactic cry of “You just wanna keep me on repeat and hear me crying”. On deep cut highlight “Defeated No More”, Friendly Fire’s Ed Macfarlane turns in a wonderfully sweaty performance that heightens the track’s open air release. Eliza Doolittle crushes her appearance on “You & Me”, transitioning from a lounge house coo on the verses to a full force attack on the chorus.
Then there’s Sam Smith.
To say he kills his performance on “Latch” is an understatement. A relative unknown before, he’s becoming a global superstar in its wake with no question why. Over Disclosure’s signature clicks, wooshes, and whirrs he delivers a full rapture of a performance. When the song hits its swooning pre chorus you feel the imminent take off in your soul but nothing prepares you. The bottom drops out of as a perfect bassline comes rocketing up underneath, propelling Smith’s velvety croon to unimaginable heights. After innumerable listens that chorus still knocks me flat on my ass every single time. His performance is so good it makes you forget the phrase “I’m latching onto you” is not even a little bit romantic.
But Disclosure are smart. They know 14 tracks of vocal theatrics is exhausting so they play a perfect balancing act here. Following the pyrotechnics of “Latch” come the simple, straight ahead hooks (Sung by Disclosure bro himself Howard Lawrence) of “F For You”. The classic house tribute “Stimulation” divides up a guest heavy section while the double palate cleanser “Second Chance” and “Grab Her!” set up the grand finale run of 4 guest appearances.
opens with the giddy rush to the club and closes with the quiet ride home. The contrast to the rest of the album is immediately evident, where Settle
is smooth and mechanical, “Help Me Lose My Mind” is warm and organic. With a live hi hat and a perfectly placed tamborine rattle, “Help Me Lose My Mind” lets London Grammar lead singer Hannah Reid’s husky voice fly through the city sky line; dipping, winding, and soaring in between buildings.
Listening to Settle
is like being in the passenger seat of a brand new Jaguar while a professional driver whips a few laps around the Nürburgring. There’s both the thrill of unhinged momentum and the security of being in the hands of someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. That the two Disclosure brothers, Guy and Howard Lawrence, are only 18 and 21 years old is astounding, but listening to Settle
it makes sense. This is music that could only be made by people living for right now. It sounds both completely of the current moment and 10 years ahead. There isn't the slightest hint of nostalgia inside of Settle
, the blank eyes of the Disclosure logo are fixed firmly forward.