UK garage duo Discolsure has done well for themselves. The group was sitting comfortably at the top spot of the UK Albums chart this week with the debut of their first album, Settle. In about a year, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have resurrected garage music and brought the shiny, synth-heavy sound of ’90s house music back to the forefront. They’re incredibly successful. They’re also incredibly hyped. So! After all these months, all the singles, all the shows…how is the record? Will it be the revolutionary blow to house music people expected from Daft Punk? Or is this just the latest in fashionable pop music? Lets check it out.
Settle is, essentially, a house record. The beats are all four-to-the-floor. There are synths. There are divas and dude-vas crooning over thumping bass. In a way, it’s typical. What separates Disclosure (and Settle specifically) from the masses is the smoothness by which the duo operates. We got a glimpse of their skills with their quality The Face EP last year, and since then, not much has changed. Thank God.
As a genre, UK garage kinda went underground in the mid-00s. The sound still has something left in it, though, as tracks like “Latch” and “You & Me” show.
“Latch” sounds like it could’ve come off a Craig David album around 2000. Though, back then, the mixing wasn’t quite as good as what Disclosure has been able to pull off here. The track has great pacing and leads off with a pitched-up vocal sample and throbbing synths that dissolve and reconfigure themselves with Sam Smith’s vocals.
“You & Me” is similar but more upbeat. I love the slow, low-frequency buildups during the verses. They give the lyrics a sense of tension and eagerness without being dissonant.
Even “White Noise” is a silky smooth groove despite its heavy use of effects. This track is a great example of how Disclosure manipulates mood with buildups, drops, and stretched-out loops. They have a great sense of how much sound is enough to be interesting without being, well, noisy. Of course, having AlunaGeorge on the track isn’t exactly a handicap.
Nearly all of the featured artists on Settle knock it out of the park. Frequent collaborator Jessie Ware makes an appearance on “Confess to Me.” She’s plays the diva here, seducing the listener with promises to “fulfill their desires” over a hot synth lead and driving house beat. From past experience, the duo of Jessie Ware and Disclosure is not one to be doubted. Magic happens when they get together.
It’s not all just sexy, go-hard dance music on Settle, though. London Grammar makes an appearance on the closing track, “Help Me Lose My Mind.” It’s a mid-tempo groove reminiscent of Everything But the Girl. Weirdly, out of an entire album club-ready dance music, this song is the one I enjoy the most.
Honestly, the only track that I find skippable is “Defeated No More.” This is the one track where Disclosure gets a little bit over enthused with the synth. The result isn’t terrible; hell, it’s not even bad. It’s just the chorus is a little annoying. It’s not something that I would’ve picked out if the rest of the album didn’t sound so effortless.
In the end, Settle is an incredibly good album. The production is as slick and clean as anyone could hope for, and it succeeds where so many other electronic music albums fail by setting a mood. Nothing is jarring, discordant, or out of place. And yet, the album still feels alive. That’s thanks in no small part to the excellent vocal contributions from the album’s guests.
Easily, this is my favorite electronic record of the year thus far. Yes, even over the great and mighty Daft Punk. Shocking, I know. The thing is, I love Random Access Memories, but that album is a much more adventurous and diverse record than Settle, and while it’s good, it’s also inconsistent.
You know what you’re getting with Disclosure: thirteen expertly crafted tracks of excruciating sexy dance music. Not bad for a first effort. Not bad at all.
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