Brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, collectively known as Disclosure, are back with their slick stylized synths and filter friendly electronica for Caracal, their follow up record to 2013’s Settle. Released during the comedown of Ibiza season and the backend of every noteworthy festival worldwide, Caracal comes across as more of a disjointed album than their debut. Whilst the guest appearances on Settle solidified the duo as ones to watch and saw them soar to the top of sweaty tent slots, the roster of artists that feature on their most recent effort may be the reason for the albums dissonance, lacking conciseness and instead sounding more like a Ministry of Sound compilation.
That’s not to say that there isn't a track worthy of merit; the opener Nocturnal, fronted by man-of-the-moment The Weeknd, is a magical partnership between the artists. The Weeknd draws the track into his own with his trademark soaring falsetto which is backed by an incredibly polished instrumental - it seems that Howard & Guy wouldn't look out of place in the producer’s seat(s) for any of the smooth-talking Canadian’s future releases. New Zealander and teen prodigy Lorde sets a new standard in Magnets with her sultriest performance yet, brimming with the potential to become a fierce competitor of Lana Del Rey’s in forthcoming years. The track is hugely reminiscent of Flume’s reworking of Lorde’s single Tennis Court. It’s one of the more unexpected collaborations on the record, but is a surprisingly winning formula and bodes well for the future of the young songstress. Sam Smith makes a return on Omen, a track that is undeniably more R&B than Latch and more catered to his own style, but still showing he can dominate in an electronic setting given the right pairing.
Despite the over-saturation of big names that feature on the album, Caracal has surely given a platform for up and coming artists such as Nao and Kwabs, and Willing & Able sees the latter deliver a powerful vocal and slip comfortably into the dancing shoes that Sam Smith donned for Latch. Yet, undoubtedly, the stand out track of the record is Jaded, one of only two tracks that the boys are unassisted and left to their own devices. Sounds obvious enough, but it’s at this moment, midway through the album, that Disclosure sounds most like Disclosure.
Still, whilst the fire started to burn in Settle, Caracal feels like its same, faintly glowing embers. Trading stirring club-ready bangers for a woozier, strung-out approach, Disclosure begin to blend into the masses and lose that intangible excitement that propelled them to such heights of popularity. Despite establishing much of their career on guest vocals, their best work comes without any outside influence. There are even bigger names on Caracal than Settle, but Jaded has me wondering whether the brothers could go it alone if they were willing – willing being the ever dependent deciding factor. A caracal is a solitary animal, at times working in pairs. Maybe there’s more to the album’s title than the Lawrence brothers let on. We’ll see.
Words: Connnor Crabb