Date: October 28, 2013
Venue: 930 Club, Washington, DC
As a former rave/club kid and DJ, now in his mid-thirties with a respectable office gig, I can say it's a glorious thing when a dance/electronic act starts and finishes before midnight. For that alone, I salute Disclosure and opening DJ, T. Williams, who played a sold-out show at the 930 Club last night. For those unaware, Disclosure are a UK house music production duo (specializing in the "garage," "funky," and "deep" varieties), while T. Williams, also from the UK, has DJ'd these styles for a decade plus (notably, for influential UK radio station Rinse FM).
|Disclosure "face" the music.|
T. Williams was already well into his set when we arrived at the venue, enveloping the sweaty crowd in concussive 4/4 house rhythms. I was immediately taken back to my early days at Buzz (the infamous 1990's rave night held at the, now demolished, Capital Ballroom), where modestly attired DJ's mixed vinyl in dark unadorned rooms with just a few strobes for effect. Only the beats mattered.
As a longtime devotee of UK club culture and musical styles (the "hardcore continuum"), experiencing Williams' uniquely British twist on house firsthand was a treat - jungle's chunky bass lines, garage's soaring vocal hooks, 2-step's nimble syncopation, and dubstep's fuck-off attitude. This was not your ironic post-punk hipster house, but an unapologetic filthy variant drawing directly from house music's roots in gay, black, and Latino club culture.
|T. Williams crushing it on the decks.|
It was on last year's Rinse Vol. 21, mixed beautifully by T. Williams', that I first heard Disclosure - with their 2-step gem "My Intention is War (Fig II)." However, I'd only paid real attention when I heard that Disclosure's debut album Settle went straight to number one in the UK charts this past June, beating out my favorite rock band Queens of the Stone Age for that glory. I had to look into this.
Disclosure are an impossibly young pair of brothers (Guy, 19, and Howard Lawrence, 22) who draw heavily from late 90's UK garage and 2-step - genres that peaked in Britain when these kids were 6 and 9, respectively. Despite some backlash in the underground, it's easy to forget that every new generation naturally draws from the past, and Disclosure are no different. It's just uncanny how they pick up right were Artful Dodger, Wookie, and MJ Cole left off thirteen years ago.
|Disclosure - "When a Fire Starts to Burn"|
The last time a UK house music production duo got this much global attention, this quickly, was in 1999 when Basement Jaxx released their debut Remedy, an act I was fortunate enough to see live at the 930 Club when they toured their excellent 2001 album Rooty. Whereas the Jaxx played down their light show to showcase the myriad singers who lent vocals to Rooty, I was disappointed that Disclosure did the opposite. I had assumed Disclosure would bring along their vocal collaborators for their American tour, but maybe in this day and age of DJing from inside a pyramid, they needed every inch of space on the plane/tour bus for all that gear.
Ultimately, watching the baby-faced pair enthusiastically bang out their anthemic hits was entertainment enough. One brother capably handled percussion, while the other occasionally plucked a bass guitar. Both sang and utilized a battery of synthesizers and laptops and, though a cynic might assume the sound was entirely piped-in off a hard drive, I could definitely hear slight errors in the timing of triggered loops and sound effects indicating some level of spontaneous live performance.
In any case, the brothers Lawrence played a simultaneously unpretentious and transcendental set including gems from Settle, like the ear-worm track of the summer "When a Fire Starts to Burn" (fuck "Get Lucky"), and the infectious "White Noise," "Latch," and "F For You," with lesser-known sonic tangents between. With the place literally packed to the rafters, air thick and steamy, with bass so heavy I could see my beer slide across the bar-top, I'm happy to say Disclosure truly impressed. Can't wait for the next round.