Disclosure’s debut album ‘Settle’ unites coherent club music and stunning songwriting [album review]
With great stature comes great responsibility and Hollywood humor aside, there wasn’t a fan worth his salt that didn’t take on a similar musing on the approach to Disclosure’s debut album Settle. After all, with such an impactful three years behind them, an album to match both their live and single-led overhaul would signal a sure-fire homerun for brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence.
Upon approach, the scene seemed perfectly set. The full-length platform buzzed with RAM fever, underground dance music allegedly benefitted from new eyes from across the globe, and the British duo benefitted from an already packed-out summer itinerary, irrespective of album sales. But with so many new eyes undressing their aural exploits, the duo imparted only 14-tracks to persuade us that true to the global hype, Disclosure have bottled the equation to quality dance music with a commercially viable backbone.
With so many facets to their recorded careers, fans were sure to wonder where the overarching themes would lie for Settle. Their journey is not simply one of re-inventing the ranks of garage or cashing in on popular music’s appetite for deep house crossovers. In fact, the album benefits from a consistent dose of both allegedly opposing forces. In terms of its pop-savvy moments, “You & Me” and “Voices” nod to the sweet yet succinct vocal energy that such homeland assets as Artful Dodger brought to the table back in the 1990s, leaving “Latch” to establish a near-perfect electronic pop ballad with immediate and infectious sing-along assets.
Disclosure – Voices (feat. Keable)
But past the album’s earlier landmark singles, the bulk of which prove inherently chart friendly, the aural map gets a little tougher to chart. There are moments of undisputed influence from the club floor, for which “When A Fire Starts to Burn,” “Stimulation” and “Grab Her” play imperfect poster boys to duo’s late-rising (yet wholehearted) appreciation for scaled back house music with a low-end lean. For the multitude of aural colors cast throughout the album, Settle caters both sides of the musical pendulum like few before them — with unobtrusive yet curious stamina.
Disclosure – Stimulation
Reassuringly, Settle’s commercial streak doesn’t end at its three front-running singles. The vocalists hand-picked throughout are not necessarily the big names some would expect, and this has been Disclosure’s charm from day one. Tapping into the vocal and songwriting talents that have surrounded their ascent from the beginning, the album benefits from real up-and-coming artists whose voices excel in the context of cutting edge dance music. With Jamie Woon and Jesse Ware emphasizing this considerably towards the album’s climax, Ed Macfarlane’s input for “Defeated No More” is the pop savvy icing on a musically warped cake that technically shouldn’t work, but quite simply does. As a result, the journey feels all more the heartfelt from two brothers who still seem to be pinching themselves in the guises of a captive global audience.
Disclosure – Defeated No More feat. Ed Macfarlane
Disclosure – January feat. Jamie Woon
Stunning composition, off-the-cuff genre transitions, and forthright production values combine to make an album that plays from start to finish with fluid yet simplistic style. Their journey is a cultural melting pot of influences dating from the early 80s to present – no tempo untouchable, no period penalized, and perhaps more reassuringly for some, no disco throwbacks required.
To that extent, Settle is an all-inclusive debut that opens a world of discovery for those unfamiliar to dance music’s scattered history, whilst offering a solemn nod to the fact that against all the odds, you don’t need a cheesy synth line or Guetta on a track to make it a commercially viable crossover. This is an ungroomed epiphany electronic music and for the most part, plays as a welcome relief to the genre in which everybody wants their part.
Reassuringly, this is an album unlikely to be imitated. Nor is it likely to inspire a new generation of garage-savvy stalwarts with the American festival circuit and Vegas bottle service clubs in their sights. The task would be impossible, if not for the fact that for all their sins, the Howard brothers seem to have accidently stumbled upon the unpretentious formula that some double or even triple their age have sought since the short-lived days of UK garage. But true to the duo’s journey from free downloads to festival anthems, Settle excels all expectations in one of the more accomplished British dance albums to emerge for more than a decade. It may not have every man and his mother rejoicing to the empowered state of electronic music just yet, but its coherence is unlikely to be ignored.