Oh, it was meant to be so different, wasn’t it? Pounding dance tents and pummelling headaches; it’s what the festival season was made for. The dizzying highs, the punishing hangovers and those middling, mundane, moments before the next sesh in-between remind us what it’s like to be young, alive and having a fucking great time. But, no dice. We go again (maybe) next year.
Disclosure can relate to that too. ‘ENERGY’, their first album in five years, wasn’t meant to arrive on the same day our collective sigh of resignation muddied the final Bank Holiday of 2020, but it does. These 11 razor-sharp tracks are custom-built for big nights in festival fields and up and down the country in big city super-clubs and regional sweatboxes. It is dancefloor dynamite.
‘ENERGY’ was written and recorded across 2019, and wrapped up before the year’s end. In an era of moody quarantine records, it’s refreshing that they haven’t retreated nor tried to anticipate a collective mood. It’s uncompromising and electrifying in the dour face of 2020 – and a reminder of how the Lawrence brothers are at the top of their game.
Guy and Howard’s previous album, 2015’s ‘Caracal’, was no disaster – it solidified their songwriting chops and provided fertile ground for new collaborations with the likes of The Weeknd and Miguel – but perhaps lacked the urgency of their colossal debut album, 2013’s ‘Settle’. Then again, after hectic times on the road, it’s little wonder that they opted to take a more scenic route on album two, eschewing house bangers for R&B jams and a broader musical palette.
They’ve kept busy in the interim, though. 2018’s delightful ‘Moonlight’ EP was a refreshing, sample-led tonic, while they’ve split their skills working with artists such as Lianne La Havas, Khalid and the late Mac Miller. Another EP earlier this year, ‘Ecstasy’, acted as a reminder of the tempo and, ahem, energy, to be expected on their third album.
Their shortest album yet, ‘ENERGY’ is a rough-and-ready bender that evokes their house and garage-revival beginnings while sprinkling in some new flavours: turn-of-the-century French-touch (‘Lavender’), alternative hip-hop (‘Reverie’) and bustling samba beats (‘ENERGY’). Speaking to NME for this week’s cover story, Howard admitted that they perhaps “tried to be too clever” with and “overthought” parts of their previous record – this collection encouraged them to follow their instincts and embrace the melodies, choruses and beats that arrived the fastest. The result is brilliant, bruising dance music right from the gut.
And, yes, there are guests – perhaps the Lawrence brothers’ strongest ensemble cast yet. Ranging from big names such as Kelis, Common, Fatoumata Diawara and Kehlani to hot young things including LA dance king Channel Tres and British scallywag Slowthai, these performances are as vital and electrifying as those on ‘Settle’.
Naughty come-up anthem ‘My High’ – on which US hip-hop star Aminé and Slowthai trade scintillating verses – could only have worked with ragers like these. The soppy moments of their previous R&B-indebted album is smartly avoided on Syd and Kehlani’s duet on slow-burning jam, ‘Birthday’, a calming balm on an otherwise hectic record.
Yet it’s Cameroonian hero Blick Bassy who steals the show with ‘C’est ne pas’. It was originally conceived as a studio-jam, but Bassy used parts of several local dialects from his home nation in the vocal take, borrowing elements of each while never fitting neatly into any clear definition for a bubbling number. Howard insists that he still has little idea what Bassy’s singing on this song – just as the vocalist intended.
And perhaps no-one has sounded quite so commanding on a Disclosure track as Channel Tres does on ‘Lavender’. Oozing confidence, he directs the brothers to “bring the clap back in” during the final third’s cool-down section – the type of humanity and humour that went missing from ‘Caracal’.
At this point, we are some way off to having this album thrive in its natural habitat. But there’s a serious lust for life in ‘ENERGY’ that’ll retain its vibrancy for months to come, ensuring that ravers are ready to go again when the bleary sun rises on festival fields at 6am worldwide. After all, it’s always darkest before dawn.
Release date: August 28
Record label: Island Records