It’s a thin ice business, skating the layer of EDM between fluffy, radiopropriate Dance music surface and the offbeat, sometimes tedious House-trenches that lie just below. It’s easy to crack through the layer and surrender to an icy swallow of mind-numbing repetition, ‘vanilla’ synthetic instrumentals, and general aimlessness under the guise of edgy minimalism. DJs and producers do it all the time.
But for years, Howard and Guy Lawrence have fisted these hard and far into the realm of lazy production and lost melodic causes. Their second studio album is entitled Caracal and features—fittingly—a fierce feline face on its grayscale cover. And while the liberal, 15-track project seems to host a million guest stars, this might be precisely what they’re doing right. The Lawrences can sing, of course, but they don’t like to get sick of hearing themselves.
Five years, fifteen singles, and two studio albums later, one can affirm that Disclosure’s supreme quality comes largely from sounding like no other artist on the scene. Sown from the same dancefloor shakeability of Settle‘s “White Noise” and “Latch”, Caracal‘s “Omen” and “Hourglass” are electrifying because they’re sonically fresh. No track is identical, no drum sequence is the same. There are lyrics put to the melodies, but they don’t cloud our concentration on all the mixboard finesse. EDM for the EDM cynic, Disclosure seems to make a masterpiece of everything diluted from contemporary electronic music.
And one of their finest methods of attack is pulling up gems from the vast, indie-underground. Like Settle, Disclosure’s collaborations are nothing but strategic. The result: a richly diverse compilation that feels much more multi-genre than it really is. On Caracal, there’s the feisty-piped Nao, a fellow Brit and R&B artist who provides the velvety assist on “Superego”, and the Ghania-born powerhouse Kwabs, who takes us straight to church while delivering a desperately soulful, ‘ride-or-die’ proposal on “Willing and Able”, the album’s most goosebumpy, chest-belting dancefloor-ballad.
And then there’s the rest; an all-star stitching of R&B’s best balladeers and pop’s leading acts: Miguel, The Weeknd, Lorde, and Sam Smith. The Lawrence bros snag fellow victory-lapper, Abel Tesfaye, for “Nocturnal”, Caracal‘s mystically orphic overture. The Weeknd brings some of his misery (“Try to tell myself there’s freedom in the loneliness”) and the brothers meld it with deep-house snares, keyboards, and slick, twilight ambience.
Caracal is undoubtedly Settle‘s dark successor: a wide-eyed, sleeker sophomore album from a slightly more mature, pensive Disclosure—a duo who’s nailed a singular kind of dancefloor electricity,–realized it–, and won’t let it go.
Buy the album on iTunes here, and listen to “Hourglass (Feat. LION BABE)” off the EP below: