Ironically, British house producers like Gold Panda will tell you that the best dance music currently is being made in Berlin. So, maybe the rise of U.K. electronic duo Disclosure is just the final crest of a wave of the London-centric dance music dominant in this past decade, but their debut Settle feels much more like an international debut for a whole new generation of British producers and singers.
Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence both were born in the ’90s, which makes them not only absurdly young, but undoubtedly oriented toward a form of electronic music that has less to do with the glitz, kitsch and excess of the ’80s than it does the aerobic bounce and sultry soul of their birth decade—think Deee-Lite (“Groove Is in the Heart”), C+C Music Factory, Sade. That last reference is key, as Settle is, perhaps above all, a survey of young British R&B vocalists, who take turns handling the melodic work for the Lawrence brothers. Jessie Ware, who guests on “Confess to Me,” is as close to a queen as the genre presently has. Last year’s debut, Devotion, made good on the promise of her prior collaborations with SBTRKT and Sampha, and has helped cement this new incarnation of British R&B, which owes as much to ’70s quiet-storm soul as it does ’90s trip-hop and house. In this vein, you’ll find AlunaGeorge, Eliza Doolittle, Edward Macfarlane and Sam Smith all contributing tracks to Settle that, on a shorter record, would be lead singles. “White Noise,” the AlunaGeorge track, somewhat arbitrarily enjoys that honor here and has become a standard touchstone in DJ mixes.
It’s easy to get lost in the collaborations on Settle but some of the best tracks find the brothers hewing more to straight house and U.K. garage. Despite the uniform consensus (and Stephen Colbert’s pandering Tuesday night) that Daft Punk have penned the 2013 summer anthem, I’ll petition for “When a Fire Starts to Burn,” the album opener, which charges a repetitive sample of a motivational speaker with Mortal Kombat synths and crispy drum loops.