Disclosure have had one of the most fortunate runs of luck of any outfit in contemporary dance music. The young DJ/producer duo happened to put out a unique brand of intelligent yet soulful house music right at a point during which the EDM generation began to outgrow hard kicks and hoover synths in favor of music with more substance.
That’s not to suggest that it hasn’t taken some serious finesse on their part. With 2013’s Settle, the Surrey, England brothers rode the impossibly fine line between proper house and pop music. Songs like “Latch,” “When a Fire Starts to Burn” and “White Noise” were fanciful yet meaningful, danceable yet cerebral – and even after a meteoric growth in popularity would propel the outfit into mainstream consciousness in the years to follow, their sophomore effort has proved just as poignant.
Caracal further refines the signature Disclosure sound. Where many of the tracks on Settle still sounded like any number of producers could have been responsible for them, everything on Caracal fits a tried-and-true formula. The warm, elastic synth work and novelty compression techniques stand out out in every track, and even as too many hands in the same pot can dilute the essence of an album, the impressive list of celebrity collaborators on the album only bolsters its appeal.
While this isn’t a strike towards the actual album itself, though, most of the strongest tracks on Caracal have already been revealed in the months leading up to its release. Their new Sam Smith collaboration, “Omen,” is the obvious star of the effort; we haven’t stopped singing its praises since it came out two months ago and it still doesn’t feel right to skip it when we put the album on. Everything else we’ve already heard from the effort comprises the next five entries on the track list.
However, that’s not to say that the full album doesn’t still have some unreleased gems. Their collaboration with The Weeknd, “Nocturnal,” makes for a strong first track, and “Good Intentions,” and “Moving Mountains” both make for memorable additions. Howard Lawrence even follows up “Jaded” with more vocal contributions in “Echoes,” “Molecules” and “Afterthought,” demonstrating that the former track wasn’t simply a one-off.
The strongest song of all the new ones, however, comes in the form of the aptly titled “Masterpiece,” which features singer Jordan Rakei. As with a handful of the tracks from Caracal, the tune features a markedly lower tempo than traditional house music. A subtle darkness in the melody gives its sultry themes a particular depth, and the chorus stays with you long after you’ve finished listening to the track.
By and large, Disclosure‘s Caracal makes for a spirited addition to the outfit’s budding discography and confirms them as a long-term fixture of the dance music landscape. In an era during which the industry has received scrutiny for its vapid themes and excessive lifestyle, the fact that such a young pair of artists can achieve massive mainstream success while putting out music so well-received by the movement’s elder statesmen gives fans of more discerning tastes hope for the years to come. As Guy and Howard Lawrence continue to come into their own as musicians and tastemakers, we can only hope that they cast an even wider net with future collaborations and bring more underground artists into mainstream consciousness.
Disclosure's Caracal builds on the already firm foundation that the duo established for themselves with 2013's Settle by honing in on their signature sound: Proper, back-to-basics house music with infectious mass appeal.