Genre: Big Beat/Electro/Dubstep/Drum and Bass
Released: September 11, 2015
2011 was an interesting year for pop music: the top 40 was ruled by club dance music, dubstep latched its claws into the mainstream consciousness, and suddenly every piece of music released was contractually obligated feature a bass drop in their C-part. Now that the largest tidal wave of dubstep has passed and the smaller, more superficial fish have been washed ashore, forgotten about and pecked to death by seagulls, we can safely give the stage to the bigger fish with more substance and lasting power. One of those acts is the Grammy-winning, English electronic trio NERO, who have been incubating their sophomore album for the last four years. In a scene where most artist have traded their hearts, brains and most vital organs for wiring and cybernetics that spew out beats based on computer algorithms, the mere presence of the singer Alana Watson gives the band a much-needed air of humanity, raising them above their contemporaries.
Between II Worlds, named as a huge middle finger to people like me who don’t like it when numbers are used as substitute 4 letters, resembles greatly its predecessor, in both good and bad. In fact, it seems as if the band had a session where they whiteboarded their whole debut album, pinned down exactly what worked and what didn’t, and focused on the parts what worked.
But contrary to what one would think, this is not a change only for the better: now something that used to be only the fraction of the scale they showed on their debut has become the whole. The overall soundscape shifted from the heavier dubstep sound towards a slightly more melodic sound and organic feel, drawing influence from the likes of the recent work of Ellie Goulding. As a result their output is much more focused, but also much more repetitive. And while repetition is part of the core idea and aesthetic in electronic dance music, their last album showcased a much more versatile artist than what is served here. With the more focused sound and writing the songs are much harder to tell apart from each other; as a result nothing really stands out. So even though you take any random track from the album, listen to it and find it enjoyable, listening to the album whole way through is borderline arduous. There are no hills or valleys; only a straight line where the only change on the way is that the overall tempo slows down towards the end of the album, culminating on the finishing ballad “Wasted”.
Then again, complaining about NERO’s music not working in an album format is sort of like complaining about the lack of plot in a phone book; sure, it might improve the experience, but it’s not really a part of what it was meant for. Most of the tracks on the album will probably do their job better than well on the dance floor. Between II Worlds is no means a bad album, but if the band keeps focusing on smaller fractions as much they do on this record, their next album might be literally one-note.