While there once might have been shame in underground artists cuddling up to the mainstream, the border between the two seems to be vanishing in 2013, not least with the advent of artists like Disclosure. CLOSE's first single, the Scuba-assisted vocal cut "Beam Me Up," is a commercially viable slam-dunk in the vein of that young UK duo. It works in the club, sure, but its appeal unmistakably lies with its chorus, which has a way of getting stuck in your head for days on end.
The man behind this particular alchemy is Will Saul, a UK producer who's using the name CLOSE for his most unashamedly accessible music. In a way it seems natural: he's just taking the already polished house of his labels, Simple and Aus, and molding it into other shapes. But it's also a rather risky move for a world-renowned house DJ.
Despite what the infectious bounce of "Beam Me Up" seems to imply, Getting Closer is more of a downtempo record. Its most memorable moments, like the woozy synth spill of "My Way," come from the way sounds reverberate around the wide-open sound stage, reveling in their own splendour. This is a lush record that sounds like it could have been recorded for a major label—everything is engineered to be as smooth as humanly possible. Even the few beat-driven moments feel more concerned with lavish detail than dance floor impact.
Getting Closer is also, predictably, heavy on vocals. Charlene Soraia offers smoky soul, while Joe Dukie features on the ballad "My Way." The best vocal spot comes from Rhythm & Sound veteran Tikiman on the fantastic "Born In A Rolling Barrel," which enrobes Basic Channel dub in Saul's shiny oil slick. Here thundering slabs of low-end are replaced with dub sounds reverberating through an immaculate echo chamber, softening Saul's sound while also making it more powerful.
But that softening reveals CLOSE's nagging issue: Saul's new baby has little personality outside of its glossy production. The problem manifests itself most with the Burial pastiche "Future Love," where the done-to-death sound is inflated to theatrical scale, losing any grit or impact that might have made it interesting in the first place. As nice and welcoming as Getting Closer is, it'll never challenge you. Taking sounds you're already familiar with, it's a velveteen affair so utterly soft and pillowy that it can pass by without making much of a mark.