Just in time for the heat of the Summer, when potential for gorgeous memories to be made are at a yearly high, we get a treat from UK’s hottest new dance duo: Disclosure. Made up of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, Disclosure have brought what has been bubbling in the underground of the UK garage scene for years upon years to pop success in the states and more so in the UK. What exactly is UK garage, you ask? Well, to cut it short and sweet for you lovely readers, it’s a genre of music that has its roots in the house music that came out of the U.S., specifically out of the black community in 1980’s Chicago. It had breakthrough U.S. success in the 90’s, too. Think back to pop house that was manifested in hits like Madonna’s “Vogue” and Haddaway’s “What Is Love”, that kind of thing. It takes the use of soulful vocal samples from house directly, as well as four-to-the-floor rhythms. Additionally, garage also takes influence from 2step and UK funky–you can see where the lines begin to blur when it comes to electronic dance music genres, but hey, they serve their purpose of categorization, even if they aren’t defining for some artists. Disclosure is one of those artists.
Disclosure has pioneered a fresh style of UK house and garage. Their productions incorporate deep house tendencies, sophisticated sound mastering, and pop music structure. In some ways you can say that their style is comparable to the rise of house music in the 90’s, as mentioned earlier. They took a type of music associated with counterculture of dance in Britain and made it highly accessible. Not that this hasn’t been done before, but it takes skillfulness to execute.
Part of the accessibility is attributable to their collaborations and features on Settle. About two-thirds of the tracks on the album feature a singer associated with another relatively famous group or solo act. These featured singers add lyrics for listeners to read into and cling to, something that most modern Western popular music includes. But this is not as common of a thing to do in traditional house music; instead, a vocal snippet or a couple of lines are heard and altered throughout the track, as can be heard in “Second Chance” on Settle. So by featuring all these renowned singers a widespread audience of pop music listeners is reached. A bit gimmicky, no? It’s almost on the same level of vanity as Kanye West’s latest release, Yeezus, and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Except Disclosure are newcomers trying to get their names out in everybody’s faces. Speaking of gimmicks and faces, they also have their signature photo imprint, which they paste just about on everything and everybody associated with their releases. There’s even an app for that.
But you know, I don’t think these gimmicks are necessarily as bad as the word implies. Big name features and image identities are a tried and true promotional method, and it’s what a talented group like Disclosure needs to break from the underground to the world stage. Their desire to be recognized does not take away from their legitimacy. I mean, these guys are REALLY talented; check out their live performances on YouTube and you’ll find that they can perform music not exclusively through DJ decks. If their production is any indicator of where pop music is going then more power to them, I say.
Settle isn’t full of the overblown house that we’re hearing nowadays on the top Billboard charts. There’s an ingenious simplicity and a clever clarity that the tracks deliver. The listener can feel where tracks are going with subtle swooshes and extended but not overdone builds. And as the tracks move towards defined destinations, so does the listener. It’s the perfect dance album—without the pitch-increasing, bassdrum-spamming, overbearing drops. To put it another way, as opposed to being shoved up a narrowing pipe of rigid steel, tracks like “White Noise” provide an aural experience that makes you feel like you’re gently rising to the top of a very cool lake. It’s extremely natural to follow while dancing and listening. Also contributing to the fluid movement in this release are moments in the songs where the beat drops and the track dissipates into a very sublime-sounding space, such as in “Voices”. The listener knows the gaseous texture is to come back around to a solid beat. The music on Settle features the catchiest basslines I’ve heard in recent pop music, built with such finesse and masterful audio production technique. The bass is shaped to sound bouncy and beckons the ear’s memory to classic deep house. Listen to their lead single for the album, “Latch”, for a splendid example of what I’m talking about.
While the music is full of featuring tracks, none of the songs let you forget that you are tuned into the brothers Lawrence’s production. It’s no wonder why Settle has taken the UK by storm and swept the charts, debuting at #1, and has peaked at #2 in Electronic albums in the US, as well as #38 in the US Billboard Top 200. If you haven’t yet, check out Settle to see what you’re missing. While you’re at it, you might also want to peek at their earlier releases, like the banging The Face EP.
Disclosure – Latch feat. Sam Smith M/V