Album Review: Disclosure – ENERGY

[Island; 2020]

In 2013, EDM, or electronic dance music, was at its peak. The all-too-predictable build-ups and monotonous kick drums were ubiquitous all over the world, and to some the repetitiveness – and to some extent the dullness – was getting to them. Deadmau5, one of the very architects of EDM’s rise, wrote a tumblr post describing how all DJs “hit play.” In a time where music had become more commercial than ever, the surprising admittance was refreshing, as was Disclosure’s breakout debut album, Settle. While never deriving from the trademark sharp, acidic synthesizer sound, the Lawrence brothers’ first LP had a subtler, more unique quality than the typical David Guetta track. What they did best on the album was writing irresistible hands in the air pop songs, evidently shown at their 2013 Reading Festival performance of “White Noise”.

Ever since, Disclosure have consistently brought their own quirky take to deep house, pop, electronic dance music, whatever you want it to call it, and ENERGY is no different. There’s been no downplaying the hype that Disclosure have brought to this album’s release – some super fantastic artwork accompanying each single, a completely new Disclosure-themed Minecraft world featuring Guy Lawrence’s bedroom – they’ve got it all.

The featured vocalists on this album are much more hip-hop-orientated than their previous works, with old and new stars taking centre stage on carefully-crafted beats suited to their style. “My High”, the most rave-ready and energetic track on the album, features Aminé and Slowthai delivering fast-paced bars on top of a thumping tech-house beat; the drop down and gradual increase in tension around the 3:30 mark is a highlight across the whole album. On “Reverie”, the album’s closer, Common raps longingly about “trying to hold on in these times” and how we should face the problems in the world today. It’s a testament to Common’s remarkable impact on the hip-hop genre across almost 30 years.

“Lavender” is most reminiscent of their past work, with the mid-bass taking all the attention – something that played a huge role in throughout Settle, and more recently on “Tondo”, part of their Ecstasy EP from earlier this yeat. “Douha (Mali Mali)” is the pinnacle of the album, with Fatoumata Diawara’s vocals combining effortlessly with delightfully produced spacey chords and a fetching old-school bassline. The interludes aren’t that bad either, with the Lawrences this time trying their luck on stirring up some soulful boom bap.

There are some blander moments on this record, however. Mick Jenkins fails to gel on “Who Knew?”, with his heavily autotuned vocals never really working to either the rapper or producers’ favour. “Ce N’est Pas” with Blick Bassy quickly becomes tedious, with underwhelming vocals and a monotonous bassline.

It’s impossible to come away from this album not thinking about when we might get to hear ENERGY’s tracks being played best – inside sweaty, overcrowded dancefloors blasting through large speakers. Undoubtedly the brothers had fervently envisioned the vigorous summer mosh pits to the likes of “My High”, but they’ll have to hold each other’s horses before getting behind those decks again. ENERGY most certainly has more highlights than it does disappointing moments, and it marks a change in sound that the couple are moving towards – albeit slowly. We can still hear elements of Settle, but increasingly less so. Just as the brothers took on a fresh take of EDM at the time, in the coming years we might hear their take on something completely different.