Though the backlash seems inevitable at this point, only the most capricious would deny the brothers Lawrence remain in direct correspondence with the grimy roots of deep house music on their sophomore effort,Caracal. Leading up to the album’s release, Disclosure cobbled together a “Songs for the Summer” playlist on Spotify that led off (following the no-doubt obligatory selections from their own catalogue) with the realest selection imaginable: Kerri Chandler’s titanic “Rain.” Chandler has always had an uncanny ability to home in on the details of his house tracks: the illusion of expanse within highly restricted sonic parameters, the accumulation of cleanliness from clattering spare parts, the limber virtuosity of his playful basslines. Disclosure’s debt to those same elements has, in retrospect, always been apparent. Tracks like “F for You,” “When a Fire Starts to Burn,” and “White Noise” all share the same sincere thrust as Chandler’s body of work. If Settle was the thunderstorm, Caracal is the unmistakable scent left in the air afterward.
Of course, the other obvious “leftover” element at play here is the crossover success of “Latch,” their collaboration with Sam Smith, which arguably played a major role in launching the chanteur to the status as everyone’s mom’s new favorite artist. “Latch,” which even got its own stripped-down, piano-dawdling wedding-reception remake, was simultaneously the plushest and least representative track on Settle, but it serves as the Rosetta Stone for Caracal, which is awash in midtempo, diva-centric tracks all locked and loaded to be another eccentric pop hit. Most of them feature uncannily accurate Chandler-derived synthesizer-piano surges that sound halfway between combative and orgasmic. The most languorous among them—including the album-opening “Nocturnal,” headlined by the Weeknd—are almost Robotrippy dense, like the best work of another artist featured on Disclosure’s summer playlist: Onra.
As confident as Disclosure seems to burrow deeper into their own brand, there remains the edge of paranoia that drove some of their last album’s post-millennial tenser moments (“Grab Her,” “January”). “Holding On” opens with a howl from Gregory Porter that feels momentarily like it could resolve in a chorus of “You know you make me wanna shout,” but then a house thump kicks in, filters start to distort his tone, and Disclosure stretches it out over one minute and 15 seconds of lovelorn torment. Porter, whose 2013 track “Liquid Spirit” got turned into one of 2015’s top dance-floor monsters via Claptone’s remix, delivers a brawny vocal performance that wrestles with the contradictions of house music. Elsewhere, in the self-reflectively titled “Echoes,” the brothers themselves intone “You go on and on/I can sing along ’cause you’re the echo inside my head.” Two seconds later, they fret, “Such repetition, cause for concern” as “You and Me” 2-step beats hop-skip over their concerns.
It’s addiction. As much as they respect the deep-house gods, Caracal sees Disclosure wrestling to resist and thankfully losing. (It’s telling that they left the most relentless dance anthem of this promotional cycle’s entire buildup, “Bang That,” off the album entirely.) Hell, the album sees them inviting a Grammy stage worth of superstar guest vocalists—Lorde, Miguel, and, yes, Sam Smith again—to sell records mainly, but also maybe drive a bit of a wedge between themselves and underground success. But a caracal is a wild cat of the night, and if Caracal’s broken faith feels a little bit samey, never forget that for true househeads, consistency and subtle variation over constant reinvention are the imprimaturs of truth.