25 September 2015, Island
House is everywhere at the moment: Deep House, Soft House, Tropical House, Chart House, Classical House; you just can’t get away from the stuff now that it’s broken through to the mainstream. The duo that are largely responsible for bringing it to the forefront are back, two years after the release of their number one album Settle.
Disclosure have tackled the dreaded second album syndrome head-on with the interesting, though pretentiously named, Caracal. It’s a grower, it lacks the immediacy of Settle and the obvious dance floor smashes like ‘White Noise’ or ‘Latch’, but that’s just on the surface. Give it a few listens and you begin to realise that the beauty of Caracal lies in its songwriting and host of guest stars. There’s plenty of the latter, the Lawrence brothers clearly have some connections, both here in the UK and across the pond. They reunite with Sam Smith on the brilliant ‘Omen’, and feature Lorde, Miguel, Britain’s own Kwabs and Canadian super crooner The Weekend on the opening track, to name but a few.
The familiar blend of House and Garage beats and loops that the brothers are known for is still there, but on most tracks come across more subdued and nuanced. The opener ‘Nocturnal’ sets the tone of the album; this is music for the night or “the dark” – as The Weekend repeats – this is House with a sultry, almost sinister edge. Caracal alternates between high-tempo grooves like ‘Holding On’ and back to the more understated rhythm and haunting vocals of Miguel in ‘Good Intentions’.
“a feeling of darkness makes Caracal a vastly more interesting album than its predecessor”
Having initially broken through a few years ago with Settle, it now feels as if Disclosure have less to prove – the tracks seem longer and more focused on songwriting that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the excellent beats and production. ‘Omen’, the spiritual successor to Settle’s Sam Smith anthem ‘Latch’ is a good example; it feels more substantial than some of the tracks on the previous album, and was co-written by Smith himself.
Not all of the songs work though, in particular ‘Echoes’ feels like the brothers are pulling every beat, high-hat and loop out of the musical toy box and shoving them into one track – it doesn’t fall flat on its face but doesn’t work as smoothly as it could. It’s funny though, Disclosure have faced some criticism for helping to bring House to the mainstream and it could be said that, because of this, Caracal is an album intended for the masses, with catchy hooks and its host of recognisable guest stars. But in the same vein it’s not. Disclosure haven’t made a record with the easy-going appeal of their contemporaries Clean Bandit, its charm lies in the subtleties of the tracks, the production and, like the album artwork, a feeling of darkness that makes Caracal a vastly more interesting album than its predecessor.