There are so many questions going through our mind when it comes to Disclosure‘s Caracal. The main ones? 1) If the singles have had such little chart impact, what does this mean for their second album? 2) Is this where we finally find out whether they’re only as good as their collaborators? 3) What even is a Caracal and why do we care?
Because we’re so edgy and like to flip up the game, we’re going to, er, answer these systematically. Question one. Admittedly, while enjoyable snippets of their new sound, tracks like Omen and Holding On were acceptable in the promise that they might be a precursor to bigger things. Not so much. If Settle was the all-night house revival party, Caracal is the companion piece that you stick on in the early hours when things are winding down, the lighting’s dim, and two of your mates are copping off on the sofa.
Though it’s not like the Lawrences are trying to aim for bangers and failing – that BPM is deliberately and resolutely lower, almost like an adolescent strop from its parent piece. With that emancipation comes the desire almost to find a new identity, which still invokes a degree of that house-pop pedigree but with a slightly more sensual and nocturnal vibe. If you’re looking for White Noise, then, this is not the place to find it.
Question two. It’s not so much that Disclosure are only as good as their collaborators, but rather the other way around. Despite varied features from Sam Smith and newcomers like Jordan Rakei, these are all still very much Disclosure songs. That often works to the detriment of both parties; it’s quite telling when songs like Echoes, Afterthought and Molecule are the stronger of the pack, which all incidentally happen to be free from guest features.
Not that their collaborative abilities are in question, though (come on, just ask AlunaGeorge). In the press notes, Disclosure explain how they had a slew of people queuing to work with them after their first album. In that excitement, it might be that the judgement they required to fully commit to their new sound was somewhat dazzled by star quality in front of them.
So we have Lorde, for example, feeling rather out of her element on Magnets, and so far from the Yellow Flicker Beat powerhouse that you’d think she’d been slipped a Valium before recording. Nao foregoes all the things that make her the year’s hottest new talent to toe a very pedestrian line. Miguel‘s sexually-charged energy is all but suffocated on Good Intentions, to the point that his voice could belong to any new electronic-R&B upstart. The few successes? Surprisingly The Weeknd and unsurprisingly another co-ed duo in the form of Lion Babe, both of whom are allowed to exercise some personality where others have been more or less stifled by the Lawrences’ stubborn new soundscape.
As for question three? A caracal is a rarely-seen desert lynx, nocturnal and often prowling as a pair, distinguishable by two ridiculously fluffy ears. Listening to its namesake record, it feels like the Lawrence brothers have adapted the metaphor in the wrong way – sure, they get the cloak of darkness nailed but they’re not the pair of hunters as much as they are those unique ears. Perhaps they ought to focus on why their own presence makes them so special to a single unit before trying to bring other bodies into the mix.
Caracal by Disclosure can be ordered here.