Disclosure, in a recent interview that was highly discussed within the dance community, professed to their dislike of raves and their timeless garage sound. While the article tried to spin it as the brothers' different approach to their craft, it came across as rather narrow minded, and understandably upset a few DJ’s. It was a mis-step in the run up to their debut album 'Settle', available on one of the most forward thinking labels around, PMR (home also to the likes of Jessie Ware and Julio Bashmore). It’s clear that they sell themselves too short for what is likely to be one of the biggest club albums of the summer.
Their sound, if you haven’t been near a radio in the last few months, is rooted in transatlantic genres - from the swing of UK Garage to the bounce of Detroit house. Their sound palette takes in these hungry, hollow basses and warm, Ibiza terrace chords, but with enough of a pop nous to rope in some top notch vocalists to craft Radio 1 ready club tracks.
What is refreshing about the album, especially for such a hyped up, chart bothering duo such as this is their lack of reliance on prior singles: sure, Latch, White Noise and new UKG throwback You & Me are all present, but their breakthrough, signature records such as What's In Your Head or Boiling are both present by their absence. Their sound, their mark, is indelibly imprinted on the fibres of the album - the vocal sampling and chopping, the bouncing chords, the undulous basslines. Yet they are there merely in spirit, instead supported entirely by brand new and unknown songs which have thus far managed to have been kept mostly under wraps, slowly drip feeding new material to a now baying crowd.
The singers have also been cleverly picked for their unique vocal qualities - Sam Smith, AlunaGeorge, Ed Macfarlane (of Friendly Fires fame) and Jamie Woon all add their own personality to each track they grace, referencing their own past musical exploits. Sasha Keable and Eliza Doolittle could arguably be replaced by any number of popular, ‘current’ singers as they bring nothing vocally to their tracks. This is not to say those tracks are worse (on the contrary!) but they don’t bring anything unique to the table.
The intro perfectly encompasses this sound then, all bumping chords and an excellent sample that segues nicely into the first track proper When A Fire Starts To Burn. Within the first 5 minutes of the album you know exactly what to expect from the rest of it. There are no surprises here, for better or worse, yet if you like what they have to offer here then you’ll be in for a treat for the rest of the album.
It becomes evident that they intuitively know their way around a hook and a chorus, with Walkabout sing-alongs amassed throughout the album. Even the instrumental tracks have the odd vocal cut that instantly worms itself into the brain, and you’ll no doubt find yourself humming them on your next commute. Tracks like Stimulation is high energy garage, all swinging drums and warped bass that sounds like DJ Q could have wrapped it up, yet with those catchy, chopped up diva vocals all over the top of it. Grab Her has such a strange bass pattern it almost doesn’t work, metallic and flexible but holding it down over the 4x4 drums.
Voices is an unabashed highlight here. Coming across as the older brother to their remix of Jessie Ware’s Running, which helped launch their careers, the marriage of platinum house bounce alongside Sasha Keable’s vocals is a real smash and destined to be a festival favourite. The call and response of the first verse with the bass line is the perfect build to the anthemic chorus, and will undoubtedly be tearing down dancefloors the world over.
The most problematic thing about Settle is that which plagues many electronic/dance albums: it feels less like a whole, coherent product, and rather a selection of club tracks. They know how to write good songs, of course, but this is an album for the shuffle generation: you could listen to any of these tracks, in any order, and get the same visceral pleasure from it. The only departure from this is the slower vibes of centrepiece Second Chance, which still sounds unmistakeably ‘Disclosure’, but pushing the tempo down to hip hop sluggishness.
Despite the lack of experimentation and simple album concepts, this is a remarkably well produced album for two such young producers, with eyes firmly on the daytime radio playlist as well as the ravers, whether they want to be there or not.