Disclosure - Settle | Album Review | By Volume

Holding on too long is just a fear of letting go, because not every thing that goes around comes back around, you know. QOTSA - ...Like Clockwork



A moving, thrilling ode to dance and its magnetic allure.

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Author: on June 22, 2013
Island Records
May 31, 2013

Music is such a powerful force that we often feel inclined to respond with creations of our own, hoping to capture if only a fraction of what music provides to us. I believe that there are three main ways we give life back to music: the most obvious is creating it, reciprocating what inspires with sound of our own. Then there’s writing about it, as we entertain at By Volume, a process that inevitably absorbs us yet has been suggested to be fruitless, akin to “dancing about architecture.” We continue with faith that our penned words can bridge understanding with others, can articulate the deep impact the art form has had in our lives. The third way we react is the most instinctive – so basic that we often neglect to mention it – and that is to dance, to physically express what we’ve buried within us. This movement is so natural and inexplicably tied to music that we designate space just for it, dance floors as social meeting grounds, harboring collective energy that is infectious and uniquely thrilling. There is a strange, nigh-on spiritual sense of connectivity attainable with others here, a temporary community that submits to sound and its body-rattling effects. Dance is essential to music, the most classless, participatory response to it, only requiring the body and the courage to not hold inside.

If I am to speak with authority about social dance, then I must confess that my experiences only trace the past few years. Growing up in a fairly conservative Arab state, dance was never a part of public life. Viewed as a form of deviance (which it is), dance was barred in social code and the “dancer” as a profession completely unheard of. The only occasion for dance was at family weddings, each a positively surreal experience for me, the only space where I’d see loved ones get down on the floor. As for other weddings, the dance area would be restricted to women-only while men sit handsomely in some other room, in quiet jealousy that the other sex is having all the fun.

Settle has me reflecting on such experiences because it is ultimately a celebration of dance, two young British brothers drafting their manifesto on this cathartic form of self-expression, the force of the dance floor, their musical ties to their culture. The sound pulls almost exclusively from homegrown dance styles: the syncopated drums and shuffling hi-hats of UK garage; the finger-snapping rhythms of UK funky; the deep, captivating basslines of – you guessed it – UK bass. Interestingly, the end result is blatantly homogenous; the ear catches the same pulsating beats and bobbing synths on every track, initial listens resulting in cursory disappointment. Yet the form is in full agreement with intent: Disclosure recognize the hypnosis of rigid percussion, so they commit to it; fluttering synth modulation excites, so it’s in full employment. Their insistence on just the elements that fuel dance – relentless beats, funky bass patterns, and oscillating synthesizers – makes Settle a focused but friendly record, the dance formula executed precisely but affectionately. It’s very much a mechanical heart diffusing blood through these tracks, swelling the areas that make dance freakouts damn irresistible. That they shuffle through their tracklist with casual bravado only adds to the appeal – put your trust in these DJs and you’ll be drenched in sweat by the end of the night.

The dance floor is a complicated place, and the inclusion of vocalists in dance music serves a unique, interactive purpose. It gives movement emotional context, recognizing the desire, urgency, lust, and jealousy inherent in a space that thrives on social dynamics. But the consideration for these feelings varies wildly: on one end of the spectrum you have modern EDM rave, always in escalation to a climax, anonymous vocalists providing signifiers for Feeling Alive and Not Wanting The Moment To End – unimaginative and impersonal. The other end has artists like Robyn working complex feelings into otherwise straightforward electro-pop, impressing dance that favors communication over escapism. Disclosure lean towards this latter approach, but the method by which they humanize their mechanical rhythms is notably different. A rotating cast of guest singers inhabits these tracks, each vocalist capturing a specific standpoint in relationships and desires. “Latch” is a serenade by Sam Smith, his astoundingly expressive singing yearning for the next step in love: “Got you shackled in my embrace, I’m latching on to you… could I lock in your love?” Elsewhere, Jessie Ware longs for a friend to confide in her on “Confess to Me,” promising unquestioning support: “Confess to me, make me feel it. ‘Cause I can’t stop you from the fire, I’ll fulfill your desires for you.” Their words are delivered in sugary-sweet hooks, the pop approach perfectly suiting the invite of the dance floor. And in this space the sentiments are fully interactive, beckoning the wonder of partaking in a conversation with your body.

Everything comes to a close on the affirmative “Help Me Lose My Mind,” the message implicit in all aspects of the album bared with heart-swelling honesty. The shift to a downtempo rhythm is air-clearing relief, the producers letting their guard down after an album of unwavering beats, signaling revelation. And it arrives in a sublime chorus, a woman enraptured by dance’s liberating power: “You help me lose my mind and you give me something I can’t define. Help me lose my mind! Make me wonder what I felt before.” And with that, Disclosure transcend all relations in elated understanding: theirs to their nation’s dance scene and its vivid legacy, the dancer to the command of the DJ, us to the music that provokes vibrant movement and escape. It’s a deeply moving ending to Settle, an astounding debut, one that thrillingly articulates why we dance, engineered with all the right tools for us to do just that. So lose your mind; it’s all they could ask of you.

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