Album Review: Disclosure – The Face EP

[Greco-Roman; 2012]

UK bass outfit, Disclosure, released their first single, “Offline Dexterity”, in 2010 on a lark when the duo was 16 and 18. With all the politics of credibility piled into a corner, not to mention seemingly frivolous beginnings, it might seem like there’s a disconnect between the era of dance music brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence mine (’90s UK garage, Detroit techno, Chicago house) and their age. But it’s a truth the London duo readily acknowledge in such an upfront and wide-eyed manner to give any potential naysayers a moment’s pause. There’s a case to be made that Disclosure’s position as such a young outfit gives them an exploratory edge rather than creating a detracting hindrance in their inexperience. It’s perhaps a useless conversation to have in the abstract. Regardless of Disclosure’s embryonic backstory their new 4-track EP, and Greco-Roman debut, The Face, plays like the best four club tracks of 2012 gathered in a single place.

Over the past two years Disclosure has moved from a sound akin to R&S’s 2010 offerings (Pariah, James Blake) to a place more club-oriented and pop-leaning. The evolution comes as more of a sculpting and solidification of voice rather than any sort of clambering for the dance floor. The aforementioned dance influences remain the fascination at the forefront of the duo’s tracks, finding an exuberant, brimming pop outlook after eagerly blazing through classic modes of garage and house. To further calcify Disclosure’s current plan of attack, The Face marks the first release employing live vocalists. The results are staggering in their balancing of razor sharp, ninja strike production concerns and euphoric, body-lost, grin-til-your-body-hurts dance floor abandon.

The breezy “Boiling” kicks things off with vocalist Sinead Harnett’s slinky alto backed by some wafting, bruised color synths before a diabolical rubbery bass line grips the fringes of the track. That’d be enough right there – opening with the icy, R&B-tinged soundscape common amongst Disclosure’s more pop-oriented move-forward-by-looking-back “future garage” piers like Jaques Greene – but the track takes the scenic route, dousing Harnett’s wordless vocals in some cavernous reverb while globular house keys plink off the glassy interior and some foamy synths forcibly unravel before everything slaps back into vertical-moving pop mode.

“What’s In Your Head” is the EP’s worth-it-alone track. The cut hinges around a viscous, loop-the-loop hook, opening with a canvas of up-pitched vocals, distorted-beyond-recognition orgasm samples and a wash of synths and reverberating percussion before the track collapses in on itself into a visceral, internal organ-throbbing, crushed-to-the-floor house rhythm with a stuttering vocal motif and vamping synth refrain that annihilate every time they land. The track is delivered with the dexterity of a live DJ set between bath-water atmospherics, its accumulating intricacies hinging on the pass of each measure before the track crescendos with the tension-release of the final suite of hooks.

“Control” closes things out with another vocal feature (Ria Richie) for an uptempo, syncopated R&B workout. The song’s instrumental centerpiece is similar to the beginning of “What’s In Your Head”, pushing things out to an echoing, glimmering extreme before reeling them back in in the space of a beat. But it’s nearly transcendent here, the sheer hugeness of its ambient lull accentuating the veiny rawness of the track’s bass hook when everything musically peripheral is wiped clean. On a record that’s packed with moments of infectious dance exultance, it’s a singular, meaningful moment that lingers long after the adrenaline-riddled hooks fade away. The Face is a complete statement that overloads all possible cylinders, as vital as the ages of the producers behind it might suggest, delivered by a duo whose rise can only just qualify as meteoric.