Why Disclosure Is EDM's Most Exciting Act
"Just noise, white noise," sings Aluna Francis of AlunaGeorge on Disclosure's track "White Noise."
"I'm hearing static, you're like an automatic/You just wanna keep me on repeat and hear me crying."
Whether intentional or not, those lyrics describe the current state of popular electronic dance music, AKA EDM -- just bland background sound with no intent or purpose, not exactly moving the genre forward.
So how is that brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence -- ages 22 and 19, respectively -- were able to deliver one of the most exciting dance records in recent memory while mining the kind of classic vibes that have recently seemed to be drowned out by arena EDM and brostep?
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The siblings' debut album, 2013's Settle, tore up the British charts, making them superstars in their home country. In the United States, the response was initially a bit more tepid.
Even at last year's Ultra Music Festival, the brothers played to a sparse crowd despite enjoying praise from American critics that saw Settle as a return to the original mission of house music: to bring people together for a good time.
Somehow, the Frankenstein genre called EDM forgot that.
When I put together my end-of-year list for Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll, the easiest decision for me was to include Disclosure's debut. (Really, only four electronic music records mattered to me in 2013: Settle, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, the Knife's Shaking the Habitual, and Darkside's Psychic.)
Here was an album that was hell-bent on bringing back the dance in dance music.
Back in 2010, with their first release, "Offline Dexterity," the Lawrences showcased a bit of their potential on that skittish cut, which featured no real hooks or instrumentation beyond a dizzying array of samples.
This approach eventually morphed into the complex pop structures they would exhibit on Settle, allowing themselves to learn as they went along via extended plays like Carnival and The Face.
Ultimately, though, it would be 2012 single "Latch" that thrust the brothers into the mainstream, becoming their first proper hit in the U.K.
Yes, the song is flawless pop. But hooks aside, "Latch" is also interested in the evolution of house music -- where it's gone and where it's going -- because unlike many of their peers, the brothers have also taken time to learn about and honor the history of what's now called EDM.
Chicago house and Detroit techno play a major influence in their work. Those styles are mixed with touches of gospel, U.K. garage, and electro to create the signature Disclosure sound. And as cliché-ridden as four-to-the-floor can be, the boys really seem to hit their stride when it is the basis for their beat. (See "F for You" for four-to-the-floor perfection.)
Another key to the Lawrences' smart, exciting take on dance music is their move away from samples -- which, according to an Interview magazine article, had to with the pain in the ass of getting them cleared.
For their debut album, the brothers opted to actually make their own sounds by playing their own instruments. And sure, even with electronic music, such a thing isn't exactly a rarity. But when compared to most of popular EDM's overreliance on rattling bass and the drop, a track off Settle can sound like a revelation.
The prevailing EDM formula was OK on the first go 'round. But at this point, it's become a sonic color by numbers. And the Lawrences aren't interested in painting inside those lines.
With a flair for pop, a willingness to experiment, and a fully developed understanding of dance-music history, the Disclosure brothers may be the kick in the ass dance music needs.
So forget for a minute about the fucking drop, people, and just enjoy the melodic beat.
Disclosure. Saturday, January 25. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are sold out via livenation.com. All ages. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.
Disclosure Afterparty. With Samo Sound Boy, Pirate Stereo, Panic Bomber, and Santiago Caballero. Presented by Slap & Tickle and Poplife as part of the Bodega weekly party. Saturday, January 25. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 11 p.m., and tickets cost $25 plus fees via ticketfly.com. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
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