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The year’s most anticipated dance music album? It’s gotta be Disclosure’s Caracal. The Brit nu-garage duo are resurfacing at the same time as their drum ‘n’ bass pals Rudimental (with We The Generation). But, due to their US crossover success, Disclosure’s opus is inevitably the bigger news. Whether the producers can eclipse Settle – 2013’s classic debut, and home to Sam Smith’s break-out Latch – is the key question.
Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, unpretentious lads from Reigate in Surrey, have achieved much. Settle not only topped the UK charts, and received a Mercury Prize nomination, but it also ignited a global revolution that saw EDM superseded by sophi-house.
The astutely-curated Caracal – eccentrically named after a wildcat that has distinct long, pointy ears with black tufts of fur – flaunts more by way of international superstar cameos: Lorde, The Weeknd, Miguel… Smith is back – though missing is Mary J Blige, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, with whom Disclosure (re-)cut F For You for The London Sessions. But, again, there are obscure names. Jillian Hervey – the daughter of actor-cum-diva Vanessa Williams who fronts the New York combo Lion Babe – channels Erykah Badu on Hourglass. Howard, the younger Lawrence, himself sings some tunes, including the current single Jaded.
Crucially, Disclosure haven’t betrayed their heritage of deep house, UK garage and underground bass – even as they accentuate the R&B and pop. As with Settle, Caracal re-rewinds to 2000’s simultaneously pop, musical and street-cred UKG albums from MJ Cole, Wookie and, yo, Artful Dodger affiliate Craig David. Indeed, Caracal privileges songcraft, conjuring backroom over club or festival vibes. It’s predominantly downtempo.
Caracal’s first three songs are among the best. The album launches with the melo-phoric Nocturnal, sung falsetto by avant’n’B Canadian The Weeknd – on a high with his own counter-pop Beauty Behind The Madness. At nearly seven minutes, the romantic synths evoke Vangelis, Frankie Knuckles and Derrick May.
Smith may now have his Grammys, and Bond theme triumph, but he ain’t forgetting old mates – and his contribution here, Omen, with wonky bass, should satisfy those disappointed at the dearth of dance on the ballad-drenched In The Lonely Hour. Californian jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, who scooped a Grammy for 2013’s Blue Note premiere Liquid Spirit, its title-track impeccably remixed by Claptone, elevates the Roy Davis Jr-like future garage Holding On – a classy lead single. Yet Disclosure do take cues from their peers. The post-dubstep Willing & Able, featuring London progeny Kwabs, is indebted to early James Blake, with soulful harmonies and organ.
Not all the guest spots live up to expectations. Lorde’s Magnets is average – it’ll surely be a royal hit, regardless. Miguel’s slo’ groove Good Intentions is repetitive – but still more convincing than the hot mess of his Chemical Brothers collab This Is Not A Game on the Lorde-supervised Hunger Games OST.
Caracal ends with the epic hyper-ballad Masterpiece – the singer, Jordan Rakei, from Brisbane (!). Ironically, Caracal’s real ‘bangers’ are tucked away on iTunes’ “Deluxe” edition. BangThat is just that – Disclosure’s slightly Basement Jaxx-bonkers farewell to EDM. It’d go down well at Falls Festival and Southbound this summer.
Watch: Disclosure – Jaded