We’re far enough out from Caracal, the LP Disclosure released last September, to call it an unequivocal disappointment. It was bloated and gloomy, full of tracks that overstayed their welcome and squandered their talented guest vocalists. It wasted all of the momentum the Lawrence brothers earned with their 2013 debut Settle, an album that now stands as the defining product of this decade’s UK garage revival. It also suggested the duo’s greatest obstacle was their musical ambition, a quality that led them away from the sleekness and energy that made Settle shine. No one could blame you for losing your faith in dance music’s golden boys after a few lukewarm listens.
All of that helps to explain why Moog for Love, the bite-sized new EP Disclosure surprise released last week, is such a relief. It suggests Caracal was the product of a sophomore slump rather than something more sinister, and its brevity and relative simplicity are assets. (Caracal’s deluxe version stretched out over an hour; Moog for Love gets in and out in under 13 minutes.)
Two of its three tracks find the Lawrences flexing their compositional muscles without sacrificing speed and urgency. "Boss" and "Moog for Love" are steroidal versions of the house tracks they’ve been making for over half a decade. It’s a winning formula, now and forever: build a base out of splashy, syncopated rhythms and funky basslines, keep the pace brisk, and apply melody with a heavy hand.
More cowbell? More cowbell
And while they’ve never sounded more playful than on the title track, a collaboration with the British producer Eats Everything, they also use it as an opportunity to show off their taste. Its very name is a hat-tip to "Moody’s Mood for Love," a vocal version of a jazz standard that’s been around since the ‘50s; the sample they use is yanked from George Benson’s 1980 version of that song. (The "Moog" part's meant for the synth nerds out there.) They slather it in honest-to-god cowbell and build to an ecstatic climax that vanishes after just a second.
"Feel Like I Do" is a totally different beast, but it works to achieve the same purpose. They take soul legend Al Green’s "I’m Still in Love With You" and give it a gentle chop, leaving Green’s grainy falsetto and the song’s backing harmonies largely untouched. (According to Rolling Stone, Green was impressed enough to give them the original stems when they asked about clearing the sample.) And though it’s more of a remix than a wholly original composition, the song succeeds where much of Caracal failed. It’s slow without being plodding and vocal-centric without marginalizing the beat, and the co-sign from Green grants them the legitimacy they so desperately craved.
What changed in the nine months separating Moog for Love and its underwhelming big brother? You might be able to chalk it up to pressure. The wave of British talent Disclosure once led has crested and broken, overwhelmed by chiller subgenres and Drake’s one-man funky revival; Caracal failed to match Settle’s commercial performance, let alone top it. The Lawrences don’t have to make a leap anymore, and this EP — light, airy, and joyful — is proof there’s nothing more liberating than a minor failure.