Preview: Disclosure 10.29.12

Larimer Lounge
Denver, CO

Words By Karl Kukta

There is nothing remotely controversial about Disclosure. Fresh-faced brothers from the UK Surrey town of Redhill, Guy & Howard Lawrence (ages 21 and 18, respectively) look downright bourgeois in comparison to both the gaudy rave-revivalism and the entrenched hip-hop fashion on display among America's electronic music fans in their age group.

But despite their visual mundanity, Guy and Howard now find themselves co-members of one of 2012's top new acts in electronic music. The duo's 2012 releases – the 'Tenderly'/'Flow' 7” (Make Mine), Face EP (Greco-Roman) and 'Latch' single (PMR Records) – have caught the attention of critics, DJs & fans alike, and the buzz has quickly vaulted Disclosure to a respectable position among artists in the post-dubstep, UK garage revival.

As a result, the duo is now embarking on their first American tour, and the Mile High City has been fortunate enough to score a date on their itinerary – October 29th @ the Larimer Lounge.

The brothers Lawrence grew up in a musical family and were playing traditional instruments (bass, guitar, piano/keys) long before discovering electronic music production. The siblings had different interests in adolescence – Guy was a hip-hop fan, while Howard was into 80s synth-pop – but found common ground in Burial's landmark 2007 album Untrue, which inspired them to unite as Disclosure and begin producing tracks of their own. Burial's Untrue is a moody, haunting affair that - on the surface - feels worlds removed from the sleek club-oriented sounds of Disclosure. So in order to understand the connection between Burial's music and Disclosure's, a little bit of context is helpful.

I'll start with UK garage (pronounced 'garridge'), which is an offshoot of house music that came about in the 90s and was most popular around the turn of the millennium. To put it very simply, UK garage is house music with a syncopated 4-on-the-floor rhythm and stronger emphasis on cut-up/pitch-tweaked R&B vocal samples. UK garage begat 2-step, which de-emphasizes the 4-on-the-floor structure in exchange for a rhythm wherein the prominent kick occurs twice, typically on the first and third beat (thus the name).

2-step became the foundation for dubstep, which (again, simplistically) applies a dub reggae approach to the music by slowing it down/half-timing it – then pushing the minimalistic bassline to the forefront, cranking up the reverb, and - taking a cue from drum n bass – keeping the mood dark.

What distinguishes Burial's music structurally from the (over-simplified) formula I just laid out is the fact that Burial doesn't halftime the drum rhythm. By and large, he utilizes a syncopated uptempo 2-step rhythm in combination with dubstep's melodies/basslines/spaciousness to create engagingly-ambient dystopian urban soundscapes.

Burial's music was the first real exposure to 2-step for the brothers Lawrence, who were too young to experience its first wave. So, as any musician/music nerd would be inclined to do (and in fact were doing all over England and elsewhere), Guy and Howard began to immerse themselves in the music of the recent past...listening through the prism of the present.

And what they've come up with is much closer to the original wave of garage/2-step than it is to Burial. Disclosure's music occupies the hinterland between UK garage, pop and post-dubstep bass music. The brothers' formative years playing instruments has undoubtedly contributed to Disclosure's strong sense of melody - which manifests itself through irresistible r&b hooks – as well as the well-honed, clean craftsmanship in their productions. Their releases typically have the uplifting, sensual quality of deep house, while also maintaining rhythmic diversity and an emphasis on cathartic-yet-stable basslines.

Disclosure's closest stylistic touch-point is SBTRKT (pronounced 'subtract'), specifically his critically-lauded eponymous debut LP from 2011. Both acts display crisp, debonair production and pop (via garage r&b) sensibilities, while retaining a palpable connection to bass music. Overall there's a swanky, VIP bottle-service vibe to their output; and like the best house music, it makes you feel part of the luxuriousness (as opposed to bling-bling hip-hop/rap, which is intended to make the listener envious of the opulence).

The two even share an ally in British pop/soul singer Jessie Ware: SBTRKT enlisted her for his track “Right Thing To Do” and Disclosure had a minor hit this year with their remix of Ware's “Running.” The main difference, to this point, is that Disclosure has hewed more closely to house music principles than SBTRKT has, ie, there is more emphasis on dance-floor engagement in Disclosure's music (see: my favorite electronic track of 2012, “What's In Your Head”) than in SBTRKT's. (1)

The one area where Disclosure still remains questionable is in the live DJ performance. In electronic music, some artists start as DJs and then become producers; others start as producers and then become DJs. Disclosure falls into the latter camp. The brothers Lawrence began producing tracks in early 2010, and did so with no previous experience as DJs. But their releases have been successful enough in such a short period of time that they are now, in their specific corner of the electronic music landscape, a brand... which means a substantial demand exists for them to play gigs.

Guy and Howard have stated in interviews that their ultimate goal is to be able to perform their music as a full band. Disclosure has put on at least one performance utilizing some trad-hardware instruments (snippets of which can be found online), but doing this on a large scale is currently an impracticality, both logistically and musically.

In the meantime, DJ gigs will suffice. And there is only one live DJ set of Disclosure available online – via Boiler Room – which reveals the brothers to still be at a novice level when it comes to beat-matching/mixing. That said, the track selection is excellent. And this quality of discernment has been on display all year: Disclosure has released multiple mixes online in 2012 (comprised of others' tracks interwoven with their own, using DJ-mixing software like Ableton)(2), and on every one, the brothers' keen ear for selection & sequencing has been readily apparent. But the question remains – can they take their skills as producers and taste-makers and turn it into a riotous live DJ performance?

Barely out of high-school, Disclosure is flying over the Atlantic this week to begin their first American tour. To drop their tunes for us & get us to shake our asses. That their music has nothing to do with the brostep/EDM revolution currently capturing the attention of America's youth... well it makes their minor ascent that much more note-worthy (at least for this listener). After a highly-successful 2012, Guy and Howard are poised to break through in an even bigger way in 2013. If they are going to capitalize on this, though, they will need to show that they can translate their skills into the live arena. We'll see how far they have come in achieving this goal when Disclosure headlines the Larimer Lounge next Monday, October 29th.


  1. footnotes:

    1) This could very well change, though. Disclosure recently released the vocal-oriented “Latch” (the first track from their forthcoming 2013 debut LP, on PMR Records), which is essentially an r&b track with a funky/step chorus bassline.

    2) See: their FACT mix and FADER mix


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