Disclosure: Proper Garage, Boiled Down

Dance-pop duo Disclosure clearly knows what they’re doing.  The pair has successfully integrated the tropes of the UK’s underground dance music into poppier structures, allowing the band to break into the UK’s top-40 charts and set them on the precipice U.S. of omnipresence.  But as the electronic production duo brought their live act to Philadelphia’s Union Transfer this past Tuesday, at some point the jackin’ beats, sunshine synths and whirlwind diva vocals failed to coalesce into a display of the fresh-faced duo’s wunderkind prowess, and instead fell flat.

Disclosure’s two members, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, are both young enough to have scored fake IDs and started going out in the UK when dubstep was still a dark, underground phenomenon and Joy Orbison had yet to release “Hyph Myngo,” the track that eventually inspired the eldest Lawrence to start producing.  Since then, they’ve become students of dance music, appropriating its textures into songs that make it clear they are well-steeped in the work of their predecessors, but without enough original spin on the sound to yet grant them the status of dance music auteurs.

Often electronic music artists who rise to prominence within similar storms of hype are known for referencing tropes of electronic music.  James Blake twisted dubstep’s sub-bass architecture for his own purposes, creating dance floor material and wub-wub infected singer-songwriter fare that always felt wholly his own.  Joy Orbison rose to ubiquity with his stomper “Hyph Mngo,” which sounded like the last rites of rave. Subsequent tracks up to his collaborations with Boddika have all retained his trademark blend of dubstep’s laser precise lower end programming with a distinctively ear-wormy vocal cry.

Disclosure have the chord stabs and jackin’ hi-hat rhythms of classic UK garage as well as the laid-back 4/4 thump and bump of old school New Jersey house, but don’t do enough to put their own spin on the genre, other than taking these sounds and serving them up with enough tame mediocrity and a poppy vocal to pitch to the masses.

The duos live set, too, references many of the best of recent electronic acts and is well-executed, but fails to do anything remarkable.  The Howards play their beats on a laptop running Ableton and the brothers borrow the live toms and cowbells of SBTRKT’s live show and the younger Howard steps away from his table of gear to play live bass like Squarepusher.

The boys strung together all of their small back catalogue along with unreleased cuts from their new album.  Their new tracks weren’t at all bad, but a Disclosure concert is basically a pop show and the best pop concert is a hit parade.  A slog of unreleased beats and melodies may have stirred the party-ready masses on Union Transfer’s main floor, but didn’t make for an interesting show.

The set was anchored by Disclosure’s three best and most popular songs, “White Noise,” “Latch,” and their remix of Jessie Ware’s “Running.”  Each song succeeds where most of the duo’s other material fails to entertain because each features a commanding, and more importantly—catchy, vocal, the pop element that has been integral to getting the group’s songs onto radio waves and pop charts.

The duo ended their set with “Latch,” their biggest single, looping the opening vocal cry and whipping the audience into a frenzy of anticipation.  The song’s intro was warped into a lively edit of ravier textures before settling into a faithful reproduction of the original track, the version that audience knew and loved.  The crowd divided as some wanted to dance out the last song of the set while others wanted to just sing along with every word.  As Disclosure is at the forefront of a small emerging group of artists producing traditonal house with a pop appeal, its unsurprising that by the end, everyone seemed to be doing both.

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