Three years back, a friend asked me if I'd heard of a group called Disclosure. My answer was pretty much the same when asked about most young acts: "Who?" Then one Friday night in 2012 while at DJ EZ's radio show, I heard a very catchy house track with noteworthy production and powerful verses from both male and female vocalists. Though it was house, it had a swing that reminded me of an '80s disco track by Cheri called "Murphy's Law." The singer was Sam Smith, the song was "Latch" and I heard Disclosure for the first time.
Murphy's Law - Cheri
A couple of months later, I heard "White Noise," and while there are few tracks that I want to play on repeat, this was definitely one of them. I felt it captured the essence of the late '80s house that I loved, reminding me of Bas Noir's "I'm Glad You Came To Me." The lyrics were clever as well. On first listen, it was obvious Disclosure had a second hit to follow up "Latch."
Bas Noir - I'm Glad You Came To Me
Hit songs, hit remixes, a great album, and a tour along with a little gimmick of being young brothers are all the ingredients needed to cause a major impact on the industry they're a part of. Unlike the opinions of a previous article on THUMP, I feel Disclosure helped house and UK garage make a positive stride forward.
By the end of the '90s, UK "speed garage"—a phrase coined by the media—had as negative a connotation for UKG as the term "EDM" has had on electronic music. A rift developed between UKG and the American house scene: UKG started to develop a bad reputation in England due in part to some shootings and violence associated with a certain sub genre, grime. Though I'm not clear on the details, I did know there were those that loved UKG and those that bad mouthed it. As with everything, generational tastes change. For years, people around me preached how "UKG is dead." Though, it never really died, it simply returned to the underground as many genres do after seeing the light of pop success. Passionate followers might have waited eagerly for its return, but no return is ever exactly the same as what came before it. Was this evolution vital?
Of course it was. Disclosure has added to the legacy of garage and house, breathing new life into it. This newer house and UKG has not only grabbed the attention of a younger generation both in the UK and America, but has given the opportunity for its earlier origins to be discovered and appreciated. Whether it was their intention to do so or not, or whether they love or hate clubs, festivals, dance music, drugs, people, life, etc. is irrelevant: Disclosure's music has had an impact well beyond England. To make a statement that their music works better on radio than it does in a club is absolutely ridiculous. Tell that to the crowds I've DJ'd for that roar when I drop one of their tracks (see below). It's not the name Disclosure that moves them, it's great music that's great on the radio and especially great at the club.
When I drop one of their tracks @ Boiler Room Pitchfork Afterparty
Disclosure plays instruments. True, the ability to play an instrument is not needed to prove one is a real musician. It is, however, a great asset if a musician is going to be performing live. Before software and CDJs and laptops, there were turntables and a mixer. Aside from music selection, there was a visual aspect to DJing. Onlookers could peer into the booth and watch the DJ shuffling through his vinyl collection which sat in a plastic milk crate, record case or bag. What was the next bullet he was going to pull out? Blank white label? What's that track?! Club goers would gather near the booth to see if they could make out what the title of the record was. Was the DJ mixing tight or did he have a few trainwrecks? Was it straight-up mixing? Terminating? Scratching? It was possible, if you had a good view of the DJ, to see everything you heard him doing.
Today, what can you see in the booth? The glow of the laptop? A lit up controller with knobs and switches that may or may not even be affecting the set? We all know it's possible to pre-program a whole DJ set, no beat-matching necessary. In my opinion, moving knobs and switches has all the visual appeal of throwing on a mix CD. And for those of us that are using CDJs, we don't need CDs anymore. What we carried in four crates of records can now fit on a little USB drive. Once again, the only visual has become turning a knob to select the next track. So yes, it's a complete benefit if an artist like Disclosure can sing, play an instrument, dance around like mad men (I do that), or add anything visual as part of a DJ set or live performance.
As for who Disclosure collaborates with, I don't remember reading the rule in the "House Music Handbook" specifying that we are supposed to work with others in the same genre lest the finished product not be deemed culturally relevant or quantifiably "house." Really with this comment? Guess what, if you take an opera singer, put him on a house track and people in the club love it, well then, congratulations, you've just made a successful house track. Hybrids of music with artists from other genres can spawn new ideas. House has always been about freedom of expression and attempting to think outside the box… the choices belong to the DJ and the producer. I bet you can even take a singer-songwriter from the '70s like Paul Williams and make a brilliant track… wait, someone already did that (see below). There is great house music and there is not so great house but there is no wrong house music.
Daft Punk ft. Paul Williams - Touch
To he who describes Disclosure as lacking fantasy and "devoid of house music's sense of theatre, that life-or-death yearning for salvation" I ask, "what the hell are you talking about?!" What subgenre of house is this describing? For a good portion of my own career, I put messages about God and salvation in my tracks and even I wouldn't describe house music in such melodramatic terms. I've been inspired by the Great Ones: Todd Terry, Little Louie Vega, Kenny Dope, Roger S., and Kerri Chandler amongst others. Maybe I didn't read enough of their interviews but I don't recall them talking about "fantasy" in their productions. They took ideas from the past, sampled from the past, and made it part of their present, incorporating their inspirations into their own style. This is what Disclosure has done; that's what all great artists do in every genre of music. If you're looking for overt sexuality, fantasy, and theatrics, pick up a book on Studio 54 and a Greatest Hits disco compilation.
Disclosure hasn't turned its back on the club, they've made their mark in it and with their "wistful and emotive" sound, inspired a new generation of listeners and producers.