As Disclosure, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have always worn their influences on their sleeves.
On their marvelous debut, 2013’s Settle, the duo pulled from Chicago house, UK Garage, 2-Step, and deep bass music, synthesizing these sounds into something that was at once highly addictive and intensely cerebral. Even with such a massive guest list, the record never seemed to compromise its vision, and what resulted was one of the best dance records of the decade.
Their 2015 follow-up, Caracal, however, attempted to show a different side of Disclosure, aiming for something more mellow. What emerged was a record that often sounded formulaic and phoned-in, even if the features included star power the likes of Lorde, Miguel, and The Weeknd. It begged the question: where were the impeccable instincts that had made Settle so great?
Clearly, there are sparks of that brilliance on their new EP, Ecstasy. Yes, there’s no shortage of crisp, pulsing house grooves. But the record also reveals a burgeoning interest in African funk and folk, as hear on “Etran” and “Tondo.”
Though “Etran” slogs a bit too much for my taste, “Tondo” stands out as an immediate highlight, re-purposing Cameroonian artist Eko Roosevelt’s “Tondonho Mba” for a joyful, celebratory disco-house excursion, sounding more lively and natural than anything on Caracal.
Though Disclosure does try to call back to the bass-heavy rhythms of Settle, particularly on the closer, “Get Close,” they’re far more successful when they reach for songs that convey the unbounded delight that album often radiated. They do it quite well on the opening title track, chopping up “Fantasy” by Aquarian Dream for a song that aimed straight at the dancefloor. It’s truly ecstatic, anchored by an insistent thump as the samples and synths whiz about overhead.
Of course, there’s no better chop here than the sample of “Lowdown” by Boz Scaggs on “Expressing What Matters,” far and away my favorite song here. For how crisp it sounds, there’s a shuffle to it that I don’t think I’ve really heard in any Disclosure song before, and it suits them remarkably well. It’s slinky, self-assured and an immediate high point that takes all the right risks. Maybe Disclosure’s best days are ahead of them, after all.
Score: 💽💽💽.5 / 5