Disclosure are brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence from Croydon who have been steadily building a reputation for themselves over the last year or two – early single ‘Offline Desterity’/‘Street Light Chronicle’ brought them immediate attention, while last year’s free Carnival EP found them exploring a glossy and undeniably pop-oriented strain of 2-step that, particularly on standout ‘My Intention Is War’, proved to be incredibly addictive. A further single (‘Tenderly’/‘Flow’) and a number of remixes – such as their ecstatic reworking of Jessie Ware’s already excellent ‘Running’ – have only gained them more fans. With several other UK producers exploring techno’s more barren landscapes of late, and with the bass, rhythms and production of dubstep and 2-step featuring in the engaging but dour crossover records by SBTRKT and James Blake, Disclosure’s rich, vibrant tracks stand out.
The Face is the duo’s newest EP and continues to mine similar territory to ‘Tenderly’ and their Jessie Ware remix – these are unashamedly bright productions, which sound like they shimmer with a range of colours rather than just variations on one tone. While there are clearly traces of house (as ever) and even the influence of Blawan’s warped take on techno, these tracks are indebted to the future garage of early Joy Orbison and particularly the chart friendly crossovers from 2-step’s early peak in the late ‘90s. Being too young to remember that genre’s decline (there seems to be an unwritten law to focus on Disclosure’s age in reviews, so here you go: Guy and Howard are 20 and 17 respectively), they bring a kind of wide-eyed freshness and energy to these tracks and, crucially in order to resist any revivalist labels, an astonishing compositional skill that transcends their age.
The four tracks on The Face are so immediately stunning – female vocalists sampled and twisted around the beats or pushed to the forefront on a song like ‘Boiling’, and the beats themselves sounding crisp and punchy against melodic synths – that it can be easy to miss how carefully built they are. ‘Control’ shifts from starry-eyed ecstasy to a bass-heavy chorus with ease, while ‘Lividup’ takes a house pulse apart and rebuilds it over and over again across six minutes in a way that makes the tired elements of 2-step sound, if not new, then at least exciting and interesting again.
But in a way you don’t really need to focus on the details – they’re all there, sitting underneath and around the pop sheen and wealth of hooks that other producers usually have to nick from half-forgotten R&B hits. It suggests that their eventual destination lies, much like SBTRKT, in the overground – the way the vocals of Sinead Harnett on ‘Boiling’ and Ria Ritchie on ‘Control’ have been incorporated into their aesthetic already to produce the EP’s two standout tracks speaks volumes. And the brothers have time on their side too – expect them to hone things further in future. For now, with The Face, Disclosure just make it all seem so effortless.