After the phenomenal success of debut album Settle, Disclosure faced the task of justifying their position as one of the most high profile duos of the house genre. With Caracal they have a living, breathing entity capable of taking the world by storm, but the result represents more of a sophomore slump than a superlative success.
After two years of anticipation, Disclosure have neither reinvented themselves nor expanded on the quirky, hypnotic floor fillers that first propelled them to popularity. Instead, Caracal festers into a drab endorsement of colourless and displaced dance pop so difficult to engage with it leaves you isolated and uninspired. Like its title would suggest, the album snarls like a wild animal behind an impenetrable cage; untamed, unapproachable and uninviting, Caracal fails to grab you and live up to its considerable potential.
Typically trance inducing beats are replaced by a sludge of monotonous loops that plod bereft of any imaginative spark. The signature Disclosure synth sound that usually overwhelms hardly moves you, and whilst the guest artists give admirable performances – most notably the unerring Sam Smith – they are constantly restrained by the lifeless material provided, epitomised by the sleep inducing ‘Nocturnal’. Featured artist The Weeknd’s vocals are unapologetically simple and unadventurous, whilst the disinterested lyrics have little hook.
And it’s the same sad story throughout the album. What should be a pilgrimage of laid back body bending anthems feels flat. Caracal lacks the freshness of its predecessor, so it’s annoying that tracks utilising more compelling chord progressions and melodies – for instance ‘Willing & Able’ – are outnumbered by shoddily constructed songs that feature more popular artists.
Consequently, a soundtrack falling well below its ambitions will leave Caracal buried under the weight of its own expectations.