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Disclosure Delves Back to U.K. Garage Roots in ‘Settle’ Album Release
Jean Trinh dissects Disclosure’s new album, their throwback sound, and what makes them successful.
Needless to say, electronic music is booming in the mainstream. On the heels of the much-anticipated release of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in May, the “Harlem Shake” trap styling of Baauer, and the womp-womp-laced dubstep from the likes of Skrillex, two young brothers from England have the undertaking of reviving a genre to the forefront.
Disclosure has been stirring up the U.K. dance scene with their tracks reminiscent of London’s two-step garage rhythms, which were popular in the ’90s, and combining deep house bass lines with the pop sensibility of soulful, vocals-centered tunes. It’s an impressive feat that there has been so much chatter on the two-person outfit from England—brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, 21 and 18 respectively. Despite being so young, they’ve sold out shows and have been fiercely sought after for international music festivals (including Glastonbury later this month and New York’s SummerStage on August 6), and are one of the most talked-about groups bursting onto the scene. When Settle hit the U.K. market a day before the U.S. release, it took the second-place slot on iTunes’ U.K. top albums list—sandwiched between Queens of the Stone Age and Daft Punk.
“[We compared] it [Settle] “to Daft Punk in the sense that it's a vocal album,” Howard said in Spin. “There aren't many dance albums with full vocals. We don't really know why. You need the vocals to capture your tune and lift it now and again.”
The album is indeed centered on vocalists and differs from the fist-pumping beats saturating the clubbing scene nowadays. Lately it seems to be a growing trend for musicians to give homage to earlier genres—with Justin Timberlake’s deeper exploration into R&B in 20/20 Experience and French producers Daft Punk and Justice reviving the roots of live instruments in their tunes. In Disclosure’s departure, they deliver loops of uplifting R&B vocals, borrowing upon Aluna Francis’s innocently sweet voice (she’s one half of Brit electronic duo AlunaGeorge) on “White Noise” and the sexy hooks of Ed Macfarlane (of indie dance group Friendly Fires) that rollercoaster from the deep to falsetto in “Defeated No More.”
It’s a relatively new thing for the Lawrence brothers to produce house music—something they didn’t pick up until they started writing music together. Although they both studied music production, Guy was more interested in hip-hop and funk, playing bass and drums. Guy didn’t enlist his then-15-year-old brother for collaboration until he himself turned 18 and was able to get into clubs to see DJs spin in 2009—a formative experience in their entry point into electronic music. In their early days when they began picking up steam and gathered interest from music executives, they were still even confused about how to acquire vocal samplings.
It’s been a quick journey since, and Settle was recorded in less than a year. Although a majority of the album is more of a groovy and sensual feel coupled with an upbeat tempo, some tracks, such as the heartfelt vocals of London Grammar on “Help Me Lose My Mind,” have a slower burn. “When a Fire Starts to Burn” punches the beginning of the album with a singalong hook and goes deep—and even the music video for the track, released last week, shows the energy of the song through a church group feverishly entranced by a preacher singing the lyrics to the song. Their first Settle single, “Latch,” might just be the upbeat, addictive groove of the summer that music fans need, the ardent and expressive crooning from British singer Sam Smith coupled with reverberating synth bass lines. Since its release last fall, the music video for “Latch” has already amassed over 15 million views on YouTube. Remixes abound, so U.S. folks can expect to hear Disclosure’s tracks at pool parties this summer for a deep groove.