“As much as you like to control your environment, the reality is: everything changes.” These words come from motivational speaker and self-proclaimed “hip-hop preacher” Eric Thomas on the fire-and-brimstone-filled “Intro,” the obvious opener to Disclosure’s Settle. When U.K. garage and bass has had a unyielding foothold across the pond for the better part of a decade, it’s been consumed heavily—with only a few notable outliers like Burial—by a minority subculture stateside. But with their debut full-length, the brothers Lawrence are threatening to smash that wall while eschewing the fratty, shirtless culture that all but encompassed the U.S. embrace of dubstep.
A few tracks are immediate stars: “Intro” is just the launchpad for the first proper track and latest single, “When A Fire Starts To Burn.” It’s a brilliant swan-dive into Disclosure’s bloodstream, a throbbing song hearkening back to the insatiably mesmerizing repetitious spins of Fatboy Slim (it’s even been accompanied by a video that’s equally late-’90s with its Spike Jonze look). Despite the duo’s age, they remain committed to the music of the past, sampling the likes of Kelis and Slum Village. Like many a beat record, there are guests abound. But Guy and Howard Lawrence have meticulously tapped into rising talent that seamlessly compliments their pulsing beats, including Friendly Fires‘ Ed Macfarlane, Jamie Woon and Jessie Ware. No one is here to cover up bald patches in Disclosure’s work, rather, they serve the opposite effect, completing a gourmet dinner with fine wine.
The prominent R&B influence takes hold early into the record with “White Noise,” a dancefloor fire-starter featuring AlunaGeorge, and the propulsive “Defeated No More” featuring Macfarlane. The gorgeous low-key “Latch”—another easy high point—further solidifies this. The track crackles with obsessively fearsome infatuation underneath Sam Smith’s emotive vocals, making a dance song that’s filled with ghostly personality. If Settle runs the course of a night (a short night, as it clocks in at exactly one hour in length), Help Me Lose My Mind, to which London Grammar’s Hannah Reid lends her sultry vocals and co-writing skills, closes it out with a beautifully downbeat slow burner.
Nothing on Settle is left wanting. Disclosure’s debut full-length, after a series of tight and well-curated EPs, has high points as high as any record this year. It’s also an incredibly dense album at 14 tracks. It’s a lesson in curation: Where so many albums suffer from not being able to keep up with their best bits, Disclosure simply omitted anything that could have been considered second-rate.