Disclosure’s “When A Fire Starts to Burn” is a perfect tone-setter for the U.K.’s unlikeliest pop stars

Disclosure’s “When A Fire Starts to Burn” is a perfect tone-setter for the U.K.’s unlikeliest pop stars

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. 

For those outside the insular scene of dank London clubs espousing the city’s forward-thinking takes on dance music, it may seem like Disclosure—a Surrey-based duo of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence—has blown up out of nowhere. However, Settle, the group’s much-lauded debut isn’t ground zero.

It’s actually not too far off, though. After an adolescence of divergent interests (Guy, now 22, gravitated toward windsurfing, while Howard, now 19, embroiled himself in gymnastics), the brothers found common ground in electronic music. After a revelatory experience with Joy Orbison’s smoky “Hyph Mngo” in a (most likely) equally smoky Brighton club, Guy discovered a newfound predilection for the nocturnal strains of U.K. dubstep, years before a bastardized, drugged-up iteration made its way onto U.S. shores. The pair soon began work on their first recordings under the Disclosure moniker, chucking out a series of tracks to a bare-bones MySpace page. They were quickly discovered by London’s Moshi Moshi Records, and the label released the first tracks they ever made, “Offline Dexterity” and “Street Light Chronicle,” to 7-inch in 2010.

Now only three years and three releases removed from those initial tracks, the Lawrence brothers have scored widespread critical acclaim and two Top 10 singles in their home country for their astoundingly intricate take on the familiar strains of U.K. garage. Settle largely capitalizes on those recent successes, surrounding their three most popular singles, “Latch,” “White Noise,” and “You & Me,” with more of their typically vocal-heavy melds of garage and house.

Although the LP compiles the disparate work of those three singles, it manages a fair bit of continuity through the inclusion of the motivational speaker-sampling suite that opens the record. “When A Fire Starts To Burn,” which carries over the Eric Thomas evangelical sermon sample from the album’s intro, sets the dance floor alight from the get-go, laying down an ecstatic kick-drum pulse under Thomas’ rantings before cutting loose a series of synth parts that evoke 30 years of electronic music from both sides of the pond. They’re invoking The KLF, Detroit Techno, and shades of dubstep’s ghostly murmurs, all under the vocal squall of a self-proclaimed “hip hop preacher.” It’s miles away from the comparatively radio-ready cuts that populate the majority of the record, but, paradoxically, “When A Fire Starts To Burn” sets the tone for what follows. If you’re gonna keep going, you should be ready to lose yourself to dance. Daft Punk could’ve only hoped for a statement so powerful and succinct.

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