Disclosure ‘Settle’ – Review

11 Jul
Facebook comments from June 2013:
‘What happened to the Deep House?’
‘They’re sell outs.’
‘A kids pop band with zero credibility.’
‘Mainstream now ….enjoy the money ..’
‘Can’t believe they used to be cool, now look at them.’
Such are the cries of descent you will easily find on blogs, twitter and facebook. The narrative is thus: Disclosure were a ‘cool’ deep house act, then they ‘sold out’, turned ‘pop’ and went to number one on the charts. Of course, this is nonsense on multiple levels and I’ll try and explain why in this review. Up until a few months ago ‘Deep House’ as a term and concept was a mystery to me. Of all genre classifications, dance ones are a particular hurdle because they seem so obscure and tribal. Often it comes down to BPM or how loud the bass is. Sure I can tell the difference between Acid House and Drum n Bass (I’m not a complete philistine) but when it comes to Happy Hardcore and Jumpstyle… I quit.
So Deep House is a strain of House music, and House (as I understand it) was a type of EDM popular in the late 80s and 90s that emphasised repetitive beats and big synths; so I’m guessing that ‘deep house’ is more thought-provoking? More intellectual? More bass heavy? I think people get too caught up in these type of precise labels. Who really cares? The second you engage your brain is the second you disconnect the rest of your body. And isn’t the purpose of dance to allow yourself to disconnect from thoughts and engage in a very primal instinct? The only question of real importance then, is does ‘Settle’ make you want to dance? These Facebook and Twitter warriors seem to be so concerned with labels and credibility that they’ve forgotten that most fundamental of points.
So does ‘Settle’ make me want to dance? Well, not particularly (and I’m no authority in the art of pulling shapes by the way). The songs are too static, too polite, too flimsy to be dance anthemns. But as a collection of pop songs ‘Settle’ works pretty damn well. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not being tribal by calling them pop and I’m certainly not being dismissive. Pop is a term that’s welcoming, inclusive and friendly. Pop music doesn’t ask you to have a certain amount of beats per minute. Pop music doesn’t ask you what type of Roland Synthesiser you’re using. Pop is about a feeling, and Disclosure give me that feeling. Disclosure are better off searing clear of those dance-purist-bullies. ‘White Noise’ was nearly a number one pop smash (should have been) and that doesn’t make them sell-outs – It makes them stars. Who needs dance-purist-bulies when you’ve got people in their thousands buying a nearly-should-have-been-number-one-smash? It’s the best freakin’ pop song released all year, bar none (we’ll forget about Daft Punk for the moment, they’ve had enough praise to last them a lifetime).
So ‘Settle’ doesn’t make me want to dance, and neither is it innovative, particularly interesting or insightful. You won’t find any revelations in these songs. You won’t discover new sounds. There’s no clue about the future of any genre – whether that’s pop, deep house or anything else. lyrically it’s often bland and superficial. So where’s the worth? Well, ‘Settle’ is just an extremely tight, focused, well sequenced collection of sublime tunes. It takes you on a fun journey, with dips and peaks and bends and lulls and guest appearances from long lost friends like Jamie Woon, hot young things like Jessie Ware and Elliza Doolittle and future stars like London Grammar. It recontextualises dub-step for Radio 1 in a tasteful way (take note Skrillex) on the brilliant ‘Second Chance’, it makes a star out of some evangelical preacher on the fabulous ‘When a Fire Starts to Burn’ and throughout there are melodies to hum and whistle. Jazzy, unusual melodies. Sometimes soulful melodies as well. All the guest stars do Disclosure proud; Friendly Fires and Jamie Woon (somewhat foolishly in my opinion) have handed over two of the best things they’ve written to date. London Grammar and Eliza Doolittle have introduced themselves as proper potential megatstars. Everyone, without exception, comes off really well and there isn’t a dud here.
The fact that this album has been released by a major label and went straight to number one may be an issue for a tiny amount of small-minded geeks, but the most striking thing about ‘Settle’ is how inviting it is. These songs embrace the listener, they are desperate to be liked and almost impossible to dislike. There is incredible generosity here; melodies are served up with relish, vocals are handed over to a rosta of impeccably chosen guests and beats are groovy and hypnotic. So much modern EDM is deliberately evasive or obscure but ‘Settle’ never is. That is the sense in which it is ‘pop’ and that’s no bad thing. It follows on nicely from recent albums by Rustie, Seplacure, SBTRKT and Totally Extinct Enormous Dinosaurs in being a dance album remarkable for how well it works away from the dance floor. And I’m not saying it’s a ‘headphones’ album, ‘cos it’s not. It’s an album that demands to be heard by audiences and crowds, on radios, in pubs and on stereos. Disclosure haven’t sold out, they’ve simply embraced a wide audience and ‘Settle’ is overflowing with this generosity and positivity.
8/10
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