This year marks a decade since Disclosure released their debut single ‘Offline Dexterity’, propelling themselves into the limelight of sold out shows, iconic collaborations and revered releases.
Their debut album ‘Settle’ re-imagined the possibilities of house music, dousing it with glorious offerings of garage and R&B, mindfully elevating the genre in the process. The masterful re-work saw the duo remind us of the restorative power of house music, converting millions to their 21st century take on the genre. The debut was followed by a multitude of success and critical acclaim, clocking up 4.5 billion streams, five million album sales, whilst being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, BRITs and five Grammys. 2015’s 'Caracel' featured performances from Lorde, Gregory Porter and the Weeknd, the follow-up album saw the duo move firmly away from their signature sound, with a quaint offering that perhaps distanced itself too far away from its predecessor.
The aptly named 'ENERGY' marks a return to their trademark sound of daring dance music, providing a much-needed escape from the mundanity of life during a pandemic. The body of work features a global spectrum of talented artists such as Channel Tres, Aminé and Slowthai, and is full to the brim with tracks geared around the dancefloor.
The album opener 'Watch Your Step' is the first offering of dancefloor satisfaction, where punchy vocals by Kelis are blared out to a backdrop of snare drums and garage-house. The opener is followed up with 'Lavendar', that goes one step further in infusing the familiar charm of their debut album. Channel Tres’ lyrics on the track are a flirtatious flaunt to a mysterious female figure, repeatedly singing “get closer baby, I need you in my life”.
The next track 'My High' is a significant moment in the album, just when you think things might slow down, listeners are unapologetically thrown into a frantic medley of sound that certainly justifies why the album is called 'ENERGY'. The boisterous hip-house anthem sees slowthai and Aminé telling the tale of an adrenaline laced adventure they never want to end, both ranting “don’t fuck up my high”. The contrasting delivery and accents of both artists make the track even more alluring, with a remarkable fluidity that imitates that of a live performance.
Many might be naïve enough in saying that 'My High' marks a return to Disclosure's trademark sound, but there is a distinct sense of experimentation in working with rappers that separates it from their earlier work, revealing itself as one of their most satisfying releases to date. The duo admit: “We always wanted to work with rappers… they brought so much energy to this already very energetic tune”
If the three opening tracks resemble the dancefloor, “Who Knew” is the queue for the bar. It’s muffled vocals and hazy instrumentals give the album and listener a much-needed breather, slowing the tempo right down, fully aware of what is ahead. And just like that the tempo rises once again, Malian Singer Fatoumata Diawara pays tribute to her country and continent with “Douha (Mali Mali)”, arguably the standout track and categorically the catchiest.
The electronic dyad perfectly follow the track up with the interlude “Fractal”, expertly tempering the flow of the album, avoiding a musical combustion by slowing the album right down. “Ce n’est pas” is a rapid return of tempo, where shimmering percussion and a catchy bass-line act as an authentic ode to hip-hop of old. The title track features motivational speaker Eric Thomas, famous for his appearance on Disclosure's 'When A Fire Starts To Burn'. The track is a head banging summer anthem, making us sorely miss Notting Hill with its carnival-like atmosphere.
'Birthday', featuring Syd and Kehlani, is an R&B classic that perfectly mellows the record out, with soothing instrumentals and breezy lyrics. The album is brought to an end by hip-hop legend Common, the concluding track is a sobering reminder of a world worth fighting for. Common eloquently delivers the thought-provoking line “a lot of sayers we need more doers”, whilst assuring us to never “let the world take it out of you”.
Despite feeling a million miles away from the dancefloor, this album has come at the perfect time. Disclosure should be commended for this energy-infused album that is a soulful reminder of our necessity to dance. Whilst previous work has had a tendency to recycle genres and styles, 'ENERGY' sees the duo step out of their comfort zone, engaging with an array of previously unexplored artists, genres and themes. They have wholeheartedly refined their vision and approach as artists, aligning themselves to the message of their title track says “where your focus goes, your energy flows.”
Words: Josh Crowe
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