Disclosure pushes the song forward in the EDM mix

You don't have to know what EDM is to appreciate Disclosure's massive 2012-13 single "Latch." That's because the electronic-music duo from England isn't beholden to the rollercoaster dynamics of the typical rave soundtrack.

Instead, "Latch" swings, thanks to a 6/8 beat that takes it out of the land of the 4/4 kick-drum thump, and it's actually more of a song than a dance track, with a verse and chorus that you can sing along with, topped by an emotive vocal from now-celebrated U.K. singer Sam Smith. For Latch – brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence – it was a breakthrough song that anchored the duo's 2013 debut album, "Settle" (Cherry Tree/Interscope).

"Settle" grew into a landmark album for EDM (electronic dance music) in North America, where the DJ-driven music is still largely a live phenomenon. Though dance music has been huge in Europe for decades, it has expanded into a $6 billion global business, propelled by major growth in the American market. Electronic/dance music sales have increased in the U.S. the last few years (it's the only genre to post year-over-years sales gains, according to Nielsen Soundscan). Earnings of the top 10 DJs nearly doubled to $225 million in 2013 from $114 million in 2012.

A key factor in the widening success of "Settle," though, is that the Lawrence brothers don't consider themselves DJs. They are musician-producers who present a concert that is structured like a DJ set, with little or no break between tracks to keep dancers moving, but built on their ability to play their instruments instead of just pushing buttons.

Guy, 23, and Howard, 20, grew up in Surrey, a suburb of London, in a musical household. Their parents were both musicians. Their father was in a variety of '80s bands and their mother sang radio jingles and performed on the hotel and cruise-ship circuit. The brothers weren't particularly close, but when Guy was 18 and Howard 15 they began trying to replicate the music they were hearing in the clubs, particularly the 2-step and U.K. garage styles that pointed back toward the more song-oriented approach of '80s Chicago house and '70s disco.

They knew little or nothing about electronic music culture – sampling was a foreign concept to them at first, and they had never deejayed in a club when they started producing dance tracks in their bedroom. But the Lawrences instantly stuck out from the EDM pack because of their more traditional, song-oriented approach. In 2010 their MySpace demos stirred up enough label interest that they were able to release a series of EPs and began fielding offers for remix work, including their massively successful rewiring of singer Jessie Ware's "Running."

"Settle" was fashioned in that spirit, with a host of guest vocalists adding splashes of color to the meticulously structured arrangements, which range from the gospel-ecstatic "When a Fire Starts to Burn" to the introspective "Help Me Lose My Mind." It's a pop album rooted in dance, a hook-filled nod to the heyday of deep-house's soul and spirituality. Purists turn up their noses to this sort of second-hand approach, but that hardly matters to an audience that, much like the Lawrences a few years ago, is encountering this style of music for the first time and reveling in it.

The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the U.S. and a Mercury Prize in the U.K., and has prompted multiple American tours, including one that brings the duo June 11 to Lincoln Park Zoo. If Disclosure is not necessarily prized by dance-music aficionados, it has embraced a key element for longevity in any sub-genre that suddenly finds itself swimming in the mainstream: A particular sound can become a momentary fad, but indelible songs have staying power.

Greg Kot co-hosts "Sound Opinions" at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m. Saturdays on WBEZ (FM-91.5).

Other recommended shows

First Aid Kit: Though sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg are from Sweden, their sound is straight from the West Coast and the '70s heyday of Laurel Canyon folk-pop. Their third studio album, "Stay Gold," is due out in June, and adds fuller orchestrations to their bucolic, harmony-drenched melodies. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., $25; jamusa.com

Vampire Weekend: The quartet is now an arena band with its mix of pop melody, exotic rhythm and quirky texture, and still riding high from a Grammy-winning 2013 release, "Modern Vampires of the City." 7:30 p.m. Thursday at UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine, $32.50 and $37.50; jamusa.com

greg@gregkot.com

Twitter @chitribent

Disclosure

When: 5:30 p.m. June 11

Where: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Drive

Tickets: $36; clubtix.com

CHICAGO

More