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Albums of 2013 – 4. Disclosure – ‘Settle’

When I listen to Disclosure’s remarkable debut album, Settle, I’m reminded of the days of Sony Ericssons and school lunchtimes, during which everyone would listen to the same song – ‘Flowers‘ by Sweet Female Attitude. They weren’t too dissimilar to the brothers Lawrence – a young, unassuming duo who just happened to break into the charts with one of the catchiest garage anthems of our time. None of us were aware that the track was a seven year-old one-hit wonder, and I think that’s the point that Disclosure are trying to make with their Mercury-nominated album.

Settle is at once regressive and progressive, mining the old-school sounds of Chicago house and underground UK garage and funky but re-contextualising it to fit a new strain of club culture – one that favours rhythmic grunt and pop immediacy with a side of intelligence. It’s apt then, that the record opens with a vocal sample from a motivational speaker as if on a church pulpit: “As much as you like to control your environment, the reality is, everything changes.” Quite.

Its touchstones are nostalgic enough, but they’re applied with a deft populist hand. It’s for this reason that their highest musical peaks are also their biggest commercial successes – ‘Latch’ is as show-stoppingly sexy as it was when it sat just outside the UK top Ten, a splinter of R&B-tinged bass, while ‘White Noise’ and ‘You and Me’ both go for the jugular with their anthemic future-garage slink. The winning formula here is, in effect, an incredibly simple one: give the people something to sing to.

And the vocal performances themselves are nothing short of evocative – Sam Smith’s falsetto is particularly noteworthy, supplying the record with its most goosebump-inducing moment. Even with such an impressive supporting cast, Disclosure do well to think of Settle as a singular, cohesive whole. The neon-lit emotion of ‘Confess To Me’ is quickly followed by ‘Help Me Lose My Mind”s sobering comedown, rendering pace to an album with a narrative as close to the clubs and house parties that it’s played.

In many ways Disclosure’s debut effort mimics the same no-frills trajectory as Jessie Ware’s Devotion, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. It’s no coincidence that both acts belong to PMR Records either, for the label has its finger on the pulse of what music should be in 2013: it needs to be equal parts innovation and immediacy.

As young as 20 years old, it’s even more impressive that Guy and Lawrence Howard are aware of this paradigm, producing a consistent and remarkably mature debut that caters to the body and the mind in equal measure, unifying underground dance purists and chart watchers with ease. A fine introduction.

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