Omen by Disclosure (feat. Sam Smith) Review

Released on the 27th of July, this electronic house track is the second single from Disclosure’s upcoming album Caracal, as well as the second collaboration between the electronic music duo from the UK and pop sensation Sam Smith. So far, the track has had mild success peaking at number 13 on the UK singles chart, and number 31 on the ARIAs.

The first thing that struck me upon listening to the song was its apparent slow tempo, quite unlike what I’m used to in regards to house music. Although puzzling it works unusually well, inducing head-bopping moments once the rhythm and melody intertwine. This is most likely a contribution from Smith seeing as he has song-writing credits for the track.

Of course, Smith’s vocals are as flawless as ever; however I’m still waiting to hear more of his lower range. I know his strength is in his falsetto and is his most recognisable sound, but the snippets we get of his lower range are just not enough for me. Many of his tracks could benefit from the strong mellow tones of his lower range and Omen is no exception.

The dynamic structure of each of the verses is expertly assembled, with textbook staccato chords in the first few bars changing to legato in the last bars of each phrase. This sort of compositional technique goes back to Mozart and Beethoven, possibly further, and is great to see in pop setting.

Although not a technique stemming from the classical period, Disclosure’s use of clapping and clicking sounds within the rhythmic layers of the song is what I would describe as cunningly deceptive. Subconsciously, you hear these sounds and they act as a trigger for you to do the same. Arguably a fantastic way of luring audience participation. 

The choruses have quite a thick vocal texture, with Smith singing in two octaves as well as a chorus effect placed on the two subsequent melodic lines. For this song, I believe it’s the chorus effect that’s just too much. It makes the listener feel like they’re wading their way through thick, muddy waters to get to some semblance of habitable water, forcing the listener to exert energy for what seems to be a pointless task.

Another little nit-pick I have about the track also concerns effects placed on the vocals. Just before the chorus an echo effect is used, and to be quite frank, this particular technique used for this particular purpose is becoming cheesy in the electronic dance world. A much better, less corny idea would have been to just put a dampening effect on the vocals. Same result, less annoying.

One thing that I think is extremely clever is the way Disclosure use the simple instrumental structure of the chorus and strip it down for the repetitive ‘oh’s at the end of each chorus. Then, using that same structure, change it slightly to fit the verse. This obviously simple but clever technique makes transitioning from one section to another seamless for the ears of every listener.

Another basic but intelligent musical device Disclosure use in this track is the pause just before the beginning of the second verse. It’s just enough of a gentle surprise to ensure the song is still interesting and a little unpredictable, jolting our attention and continued interest. The same sort of technique is used for the slight variation on the word Omen at the end of the second chorus, the first syllable being held for a half beat longer. It’s these sort of subtleties that make Disclosure’s music an absolute pleasure to critically analyse.

On the whole, I think this track is one of Disclosure’s best. Certainly their collaborations with Smith are turning out to be a great mesh of artistry and talent. Although there are a few things about the track I personally dislike, on the whole I’d give it 8/10.

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