The Washington Post

Disclosure brings distinctive but familiar machine music to 9:30 Club


Disclosure at 9:30 Club (Kyle Gustafson/For the Washington Post)

There were strobe lights and glow sticks. The light was low and the fog machine was on. Three people arrived dressed as Teletubbies, those cuddly neon imps who tantalized toddlers and stoners alike during the late ’90s. Walking into the 9:30 Club on Monday night, you could be forgiven for feeling a sense deja vu for the turn-of-the-millennium rave scene.

It is not a feeling you’d share with the members of Disclosure, though. The United Kingdom-based duo of Guy and Howard Lawrence — 22 and 19 years old, respectively — are too young to remember it directly.

Despite their youth, the two have established themselves as prominent dance artists with songs that take heavy influence from U.K. garage — an extra-swingy, extra-shuffly strain of house music that was popular during the late ’90s and early ’00s. It’s pop-dance crossover music that’s hooky and big-tent, but just brainy enough to stand out amid the throngs of similarly minded laptop-wielding producers.

Disclosure’s debut album, “Settle,” arrived in June, and the band has found a receptive audience at home, where it has scored two top-10 hits, and also in the United States, as evidenced by Monday night’s sold-out club.

Onstage, surrounded by laptops, keyboards and percussion doodads, the Lawrence brothers appeared remarkably clean-cut and non-quirky. In the Mos Eisley Cantina that is contemporary electronic dance music — with its mouse helmets, droid skulls and alien haircuts — Disclosure is Luke Skywalker.

The duo performed live, but just what “live” means in the context of Disclosure’s set is something that can be nitpicked. Many tracks were cued and mixed from a laptop, then augmented with extra percussion or a bass guitar riff performed onstage. But these flourishes were often doubling existing elements in the music and mostly served to give the audience something to look at. An additional percussionist might have helped stretch out the grooves and add a bit of spontaneity. There’s no shame in playing electronic music off a laptop, though. The prerecorded tracks are necessary to maintain the sound of Disclosure’s productions, particularly the strange distance between kick and snare that creates the music’s distinctive, mechanical funkiness.

Disclosure is good with hooks, and the set’s stronger moments, such as in its performances of “White Noise” (which was written with fellow U.K. dance-pop duo AlunaGeorge) and “Confess to Me,” were driven by repeating vocal samples. The sampled singers are expressive, but not so much so that you wonder who (or where) they are. It brought a human element to Disclosure’s machine music, but not one that outshined the two guys onstage.

Leitko is a freelance writer.

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