After the disappointing fizzle of Disclosure’s Caracal late last year, there was an uneasy fear that they would fade back into the pack. The Lawrence brothers came onto the scene in a hurry with Settle, a smash hit of a record that reintroduced pop music to garage dance music. Welding the sounds of their homeland of England with a heavy Chicago influence was forward-thinking and changed the way every pop musician from Katy B to Katy Perry to One Direction to Ellie Goulding approached their next record.
Caracal was a letdown not because it was outright bad, but it failed to even dare to innovate again. Rather, Caracal took the formula that brought success on Settle and gave it a subtle tweak – a slower burn through each track. Caracal was a lifeless recut of Settle for the nighttime crowd.
The album undeniably had some highlights: ‘Magnets’ finally brought together Disclosure and Lorde after a long public love affair between the two acts and the chemistry is instant. The gothic Kiwi goddess thrived in the slowed down dance crashes and her voice epitomised the sultry danger that Caracal aspired for. Elsewhere, ‘Omen’ was a successful reunion with Sam Smith, retreading the formula that produced greatness on ‘Latch. The song falls victim to the rule of diminishing returns, but at this stage it’s still exciting to hear Sam Smith link up with the Lawrence brothers and it still registered as a highpoint of the album. However, that’s about where the Caracal love ends.
‘Nocturnal’ was one of the album’s most noticeable misfires. News of a collaboration with The Weeknd, pop music’s man of the year, was enough to send hype into overdrive. Disclosure have always been very gifted when it comes to shading their tracks with subtle moods shifts: a tinge of darkness, a low buzz, the sense of danger and no artist is better suited to swim in a production like that as well as The Weeknd.
Unfortunately, the track falls over before Abel even has a chance to enter. The instrumentation on ‘Nocturnal’, a song which just begs to be a sleazy nightcap for when the candles burn low. Instead we got a cheesy early draft from Drake’s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ – a very familiar canned drum kick, a generic click and a cheap synth even Kavinsky wouldn’t want to claim. Whereas ‘Magnets’ could stand as everything Caracal set out to be, ‘Nocturnal’ was demonstrative of everything that the album actually was: a bland relapse to the middle of pack from an act that should still have been smouldering from the trail they had blazed one short album into their career.
The recently released Disclosure V.I.P. remix rights many of those wrongs. Tearing down the foundations of the original, the remedies begin from the very start. This time around, the song slowly slinks into frame with a subdued introduction. It allows The Weeknd to cut through the song with far more ease, thriving in absence of the cluttered arrangement which had boxed in his golden, expansive voice.
Through dimming the instrumentation on the verses, Disclosure achieve an undertone of darkness in a much more effective way than anything they tried on Caracal. The track refuses to build when it should, instead restraining any break until a very satisfying drop about three and a half minutes into the song.
Drifting into a woozy dance break, the remixed ‘Noctural’ doubles down on the diverse toolkit Disclosure have. They can construct a witty, minimalist pop song and they can make club-ready sleek dance tracks. It’s hardly a perfect track, but it at leasts give Disclosure the sense of adventure that Caracal is generally bereft of. The song takes a twist, it dares to do something unexpected and the gears are moving right up until the end.
It’s not just satisfying because the V.I.P. remix is a vast improvement over the original. Through re-releasing the song as an overhauled effort, there’s a lovely sense of engagement from the Lawrence brothers. In the same way fans got to witness Kanye West update The Life of Pablo in maddening, meticulous fashion through his 10+ updates on TIDAL, Disclosure have given us an updated attempt at ‘Nocturnal’.
Through the art of revision, Disclosure haven’t just retrospectively improved the way we’ll remember Caracal, they’ve got us excited about their future again. Although it could be easy to forget in the shuffle of Caracal, the Lawrence brothers are two of the most talented young producers in modern pop and their ability to remake ‘Nocturnal’ is stern reminder of just how infectiously good they can be.