First thing’s first: Yes, Disclosure played “Latch,” and yes, it was the last song.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks and say that house music whiz kids Disclosure are the perfect Austin City Limits Music Festival artists. In a Friday night set awash in sensational spectacle (like a giant rotoscoped Sam Smith head, just to name an example), one thing dazzled brightest: instruments.
Much hay has been made in recent years of ACL’s shift toward EDM acts in headliner slots — your Calvin Harrises, your Skrillexes — marking some sort of youth pandering. In a year with Bassnectar and Nero occupying lieutenant spots on the lineup and Deadmau5 going head to head with Drizzy as a headliner, then, it’s important to say that Disclosure isn’t really comparable to those other electronic acts at all. Howard and Guy Lawrence, the brothers behind Disclosure, fiddled with knobs and laid down beats just like any of those other dance catalysts as soon as opener “White Noise” cued up. But they also got feisty on a drum kit, strapped on guitars and put their mouths to the mic.
This was not the fluid set with no sense of separation that that Flosstradamus laid down at a neighboring stage and hour before. This set had songs.
That’s not to say that there’s not room for EDM at ACL Fest, but what Disclosure represents for the festival is synthesis. Songs like “Bang That and “When a Fire Starts To Burn” plunged the Honda stage into atmospheric, pulsing rabbit holes of rhythm. But Disclosure also earlier offered up a one-two punch of “Magnets” and “Omen,” featuring Lorde and Sam Smith on vocals, respectively. Those songs, like the juggernaut “Latch,” contain hooks and melodies.
There were flourishes that did lean more toward concert than DJ set — any time the pair handled their own vocals, like on “Jaded” (from new album “Caracal”), or when the brothers mounted rising platforms while playing their guitars on “Nocturnal.” Billy Idol would have approved of the showmanship.
If Disclosure’s set had any disappointment, it was the lack of cameo appearances. The Weeknd and Lion Babe, two collaborators, are also playing ACL this year, but only Brendan Riley showed up for “Moving Mountains.” One could always hold out hope for weekend two.
For all of their ’90s garage influence, there’s something distinctly futuristic about Disclosure’s ability to unite the past and present. For the old Austinite, a connection to a player. For the UT undergrad, music to just play around to.