Disclosure have had unbelievable mainstream success off the back of their number one album Settle. So much so, in fact, that it’s hard to believe it was released a mere two years ago. Highlights include playing Glastonbury 2013 twice and headlining the Radio 1 / NME Stage at Reading & Leeds in 2014, along with having smash hit White Noise featuring AlunaGeorge become an essential addition to any party playlist. But perhaps the only hurdle in the way of the duo achieving stratospheric heights was ‘one-album syndrome’. Was the success of Settle a fluke? And if it was due to Disclosure’s genuine talent, how would the crucial follow-up fare?

Fans of Disclosure will be happy to know that much of new album Caracal follows the same formula that worked so well on Settle. But here, it’s much improved on pretty much every level. It’s clear that the already trademark Disclosure sound is more mastered musically, but the most noticeable change is the guest vocalists. Those featured are mostly stars in their own right such as The Weeknd, Lorde and Sam Smith (and all three are featured on absolute bangers), which is a massive step up from Settle’s virtually unknown collaborators. But that’s not to say that new talent is not represented, with Kwabs and American neo-soul duo Lion Babe also featured, amongst others. And it’s the diversity of the collaborators, from Sam Smith’s vocal acrobatics to Lorde and Nao’s unique, kitschy offerings, that gives Caracal such an eclectic feel, something difficult to do in a scene so regularly criticised for regurgitating the same things over and over again. The fact that this is achieved while still maintaining a discernible Disclosure sound is hugely refreshing.

But there are times when this formula becomes more of a brick wall than a driving force. Disclosure’s own brand of dance music has become more subdued than the typical energetic style usually associated with the genre and that they paid homage to more so on Settle. This makes some of Caracal‘s tracks ultimately fade into the background. Although the swirling Jaded is catchy with captivating background synths, it does not pack the punch of more straightforward tracks, while album closer Masterpiece plods along and is simply boring. Neither develops into a triumph Disclosure are more than capable of creating, such as any one of the first three tracks on Caracal, which are undoubtedly the best on the record. Sadly because of this, the other eight tracks pale in comparison and don’t come close to packing the punch the start of Caracal does. That’s not to say those other eight songs are poor, they’re just arguably not as accessible. Some even descend into somewhat of a drone.

It’s hugely impressive how well Disclosure have pushed through today’s samey dance scene with their own original sound. Caracal highlights this, showcasing the duo’s capability to create both a radio hit and a mellow, ambient track. However, it seems that the radio hits vastly overshadow the more subdued offerings, which is a shame because, really, there isn’t anything to make you want to switch off. Most of this album is tailor-made for a quiet night in than a wild night out, but for anything else, it’s just a bit bland.

6/10

For fans of: The Chemical Brothers, Gorgon City, Bondax
Words by Georgia Jackson

‘Caracal’ by Disclosure is out now on Island Records.

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