As a collection of singles, Disclosure continue their statement sound and produce great tracks- but as a whole, their second album falls a little flat.
With its name taken from a rarely-seen desert lynx, Disclosure’s second album, Caracal, remains as illusive as the creature. It’s fluid and diverse – partly due to the range of collaborators on the album – but somehow seems a little more settled than their 2013 debut, Settle. The sense of urgency and franticness seems to be gone, allowing for a more balanced and rounded sound from the young Lawrence brothers.
The Weeknd introduces us to Caracal with ‘Nocturnal’. Immersing listeners in an almost seven-minute-long track as an opener may be a strange choice, but it’s enticing: it encompasses the main elements of the album and so acts as a sort of an overture. Here we have statement vocals from a collaborator, a racing beat, and Disclosure’s statement staccato undercurrent. Following with ‘Omen’, the tempo is amped up and Sam Smith’s vocals are offset by continuous claps. The vocals seem a little lost among the undulating synths before the chorus kicks in and are the weakest element of the track. It’s no ‘Latch’.
‘Holding On’, featuring soul singer Gregory Porter, was the first official release of the album, following teaser track ‘Bang That’ that only made the cut to the fifteen track deluxe version. It showcases the duo at their best with soaring vocals expertly married with a statement beat and intoxicating electronic undulations throughout. ‘Magnets’ brings Lorde’s breathy vocals layered over lightly tapping drums, with her vocals adding a softer dimension than the punchy vocals of Lion Babe, who comes in on ‘Hourglass’- but there’s still something piercing about her repetition of “Pretty girls don’t know the things that I know”.
Disclosure only standalone on a handful of tracks on Caracal, giving a rawer sound when stepping away from the collaborations. ‘Jaded’ is the first offering, opening with a closed hi-hat combined with unhurried vocals, before the tempo is amped up and an intricately layered dance track evolves.
Diversity may be present in Disclosure’s array of collaborators on Caracal, but ultimately most of the tracks have the same formulation that eventually becomes a little tiring. Granted, it’s this formulation that saw the success of Settle, but there’s something more controlled about their second album that stunts the drops and prevents you from becoming as immersed in the tracks as you would like to be. As singles, the fall into repetition is less of a problem, and it’s irritating that there isn’t a bad track on the album, but listening to them in succession inhibits their potential.
What Caracal does well is provide listeners with an enticing range of artists collaborating with the Lawrence brothers, but where is falls short is its lack of musical diversity. Ultimately, all of the tracks could be an extension of the sound from 2013’s Settle; the opening of ‘Willing and Able’ is simply a down-tempo repeat of that of ‘Latch’, which is a lazy move. As a second album, Caracal doesn’t reach the progressive heights Disclosure’s debut set them up for.
Caracal is out on Friday 25th September via Island.