It’s hard to discuss dance music’s growing prominence in the mainstream without mentioning Disclosure. 2013 saw the release of their debut album, Settle, which only took a few weeks to completely overtake your radio and Spotify playlists. Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence cultivated something that would be emulated (not always successfully) by many in the years following, UK garage music that translates into easy-listening pop, without the disregard of dignity or quality.
With their follow up album, Caracal to be dropped September 25th, there’s undoubtedly a lot of pressure for the duo to match what they’ve already done- or beat it.
An issue some may take with this album is its departure from dance music. As I’ve mentioned, Disclosure perfected the art of creating solid, mainstream, house music. House is what they’re good at, the area they excel in. Caracal, is not a house album. It’s easy to listen to and enjoyable, but when it finishes it will leave you wondering why you feel so flat, why your thirst isn’t satiated. While Settle was recognisable for its urgency, the freshness, those hooks that reel you in over and over again, Caracal has none of that. It’s depressing in a way, when you consider the duo’s rise to fame. Disclosure were able to bring all the sounds and textures of the techno scene to mainstream recognition, they brought the underground, overground- and have subsequently dropped it. It’s not news that the pair have never exactly embraced their house roots, many a time have they spoken of their need to bring ‘class and soul into the songwriting’. Being disappointed in Caracal not being a house album is conflicting, as they never claimed it would be.
If you push any preconceived ideas about the album to the side, it’s solid in its own right. While it’s not overtly exciting- it harbours some stand out tracks, like the fast-paced Hourglass and club track Bang That. The former utilises LionBabe’s neo-soul vocals to create a track that is exactly of the standard Diclosure has set for themselves, is easily a standout, and my personal favourite off the LP.
An aspect of the album that’s impossible to ignore is the plethora of big-name artists featured. Out of the fifteen-track album, a mere five tracks are without guest vocalists. Any other artist would be accused of overkill, but Disclosure make it work. Just. There are some standout features on this album, The Weeknd, for instance, on opening number Nocturnal, absolutely kills it. Nocturnal is the perfect blend of Disclosure’s distinct bass-lines, and The Weeknd’s Jackson-esque vocals. This could fit perfectly in Beauty Behind The Madness, but it’s perhaps better that it wasn’t, as it’s easily one of the better tracks on Caracal. Magnets, which was recorded with Lorde, is another stellar collaboration, as is Miguel‘s on the relaxed Good Intentions, and newcomer Kwabs on Willing & Able – a track that will hopefully bring some recognition to Kwabs’ astounding vocals.
Holding On, which has been on our radar for a while- is one of the only tracks on Caracal that resembles a house track. While Disclosure usually sounds slightly out of place in a club setting, unless remixed beyond recognition, but Holding On may be an exception. Gregory Porter‘s jazz vocals were the perfect pick for this track, they emit with ease the soul the duo aims for.
The pair also collaborate with Sam Smith again, on first single off the album, Omen. While Smith is arguably overvalued, he shines when working with the Lawrence brothers. There’s no denying that Smith has astounding vocals, but Disclosure give them a necessary boost. Omen is a grower; on first listen it pales in comparison to the song that made all three of their careers, Latch, but with time it becomes something considerably incredible.
As Caracal moves, it also blends. While it sits still, it’s consistent in delivery. However, it doesn’t harbour the same switches between different styles and moods as its predecessor. While there’s no ‘woah!’ moments, it establishes itself as its own entity, an entity that at times, rests too heavily on the shoulders of their star power guests. With that said, if any single one of these tracks were played- you’d be able to recognise it as a Disclosure track in seconds. Caracal still uses the same synths, drum patterns, and relationship-centred lyricism. Caracal is still solid. It just doesn’t grab me in the same way.
It’s clear at this point, that Settle was the brothers breakthrough album in every sense of the word. It broke both them and their style into the mainstream, and now, rather than evolving they have focused on refining. Every element in Caracal is calculated, perfected and controlled. It’s a recipe for success, so why rock the boat?