Disclosure’s ENERGY is a sleek and energetic return to their original brand of dancefloor hypnotism.
It has been five years since the Howard brothers cemented themselves into dance charts and festival tents everywhere with Settle, an attention-commanding album that’s simple yet effective disco pop saw them rocket into the mainstream. Now, after the more experimental but somewhat underwhelming follow-up, Caracal, the pair return, alongside a stellar ensemble of guest vocalists, to that hypnotic brand of reloadable dance house.
It is certainly fair to say that the major highlights from the record appear in the first half. From the outset of this album, ‘Watch Your Step’, Disclosure combine with Kelis to transport us straight back to the mid-10s dance scene and sets a precedent of repetitive, catchy tracks to be surfed on throughout the album. Kelis’ vocals are glitzy and complement the trance-like instrumental that accompanies it. ‘Lavender’, featuring Channel Tres is arguably the strongest song on the album featuring groovy vocals and a repetitive, urgent beat.
‘My High’ consists of an aggressive vocal back-and-forth between Aminé and Slowthai, set against a synthetic looping instrumental. It has been a period of hibernation for Slowthai since disgracing himself at the NME awards in February, and if his performance on this track is anything to go by, it seems as if his attitude is far from simmering down. Commercially speaking, ‘My High’ is the most successful song on the record, and while the gritty and obtuse vocals from Slowthai may divide opinion, they complement the simplistic, repetitive beat that Disclosure have cooked up.
Disclosure may be reverting back to their original sound on this album, but that doesn’t mean that ENERGY is without experimentation. Blick Bassy provides trance-inducing vocals on ‘Ce N’est Pas’, an infectious dance track incorporating different cultural influences, something that the brothers were applauded for on Caracal. Bassy repeats borrowed phrases from local dialects from his home nation of Cameroon, and while Howard admits he’s not exactly sure what Bassy is signing about on this track, it glosses well together with the hodgepodge of different sounds that can be heard throughout the album. It’s evident that Disclosure have shaped a lot of the album around the array of guest vocalists that were recruited and this works exceptionally well for ‘Ce N’est Pas’. The same can be said of ‘Birthday’, in which Kehlani brings her silky R&B infused vocals. It’s the most laid-back song on ENERGY and calls back to the direction that Disclosure were trying to step into on their previous release. Kehlani’s involvement on the track really escalates the calibre of guest vocalists, but integrates successfully with the rest of the album.
Titular track, ‘ENERGY’, is without a doubt a call-back to Settle, and an attempt to re-ignite that hypnotising house beat sound, with rousing and almost motivational pounding vocals to match. What better way to do that than by recalling Eric Thomas, the pastor and motivational speaker featured on dance hit ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’, to motivate us all with a preachy and energetic cameo. Thomas rallies us with cries of “You should feel invincible / Powerful / Strong”, a repetitive and inspiring performance that is (to quote a certain Liam Gallagher) “biblical”. The track however doesn’t quite reach the stratospheric heights that ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’ did… but that was quite the tall order to begin with.
ENERGY being released on August bank holiday weekend (synonymous with Reading & Leeds Festival) is a cruel reminder that these festival-ready dance tracks never got to tour the way they were originally intended. Nonetheless, they provide a reliable and easily repeatable soundtrack to any dancefloor and are sure to be a success whenever they are ready to be debuted.
Words by Harry Mottram
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