EDM Unbuttoned EP05: Nero
In this weekly series, EDM.com picks the best live acts working in electronic music today. These producers abstain from DJ sets and opt to use live and electronic instrumentation to give their performances a more grounded sound. From the saxophones heard by GRiZ and Big Gigantic to the rock-inspired sets from The Prodigy, this series explores all types of live electronic music. Read our pick for this week's best live act below:
Best Live Act of the Week: NERO
As dubstep took over dance music and helped popularize EDM in America, electronic trio NERO rode the wave to stardom. Composed of producers Daniel Stephens, Joe Ray and Alana Watson, NERO's beginnings root back to 2004, a good few years before dubstep gained worldwide prominence. Stephens and Ray met when they were 17 and began to produce at a home studio in Stephens' bedroom. Their first track, "Space 2001," was released in 2004, but their breakthrough didn't come until 2010 after Watson joined the group and they released the Innocence/Electron EP.
After the trio reached charting success in the U.K., NERO began to release a successful string of singles. With tracks such as "Me and You," "Guilt" and "Must Be The Feeling," NERO shaped dubstep as it took hold of Europe in 2011. The group's efforts hit an apex with their debut album Welcome Reality, a 14-track album that performed extremely well on European and American charts. After conducting the "Symphony 2808" with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and releasing a few more singles, NERO went on a lengthy hiatus. They released a single from their second LP called "Satisfy," but then went silent for months. Finally, the trio released the second single "The Thrill" and revealed the completely of the new album.
NERO's live show has become a key component of their success, and the heart behind their live performances rests in Watson's chilling vocals. The group's biggest hits resonate in large part to the catchy, energetic vocals from Watson, and she spares no expense in the live setting. Their earlier sets layered Watson's live vocals on top of the studio vocals, perhaps in an effort to get Watson comfortable with performing live. As their show evolved, the studio vocals were left behind. Watson's now-dominating voice was powerful and confident enough to stand on its own.
While the live element behind NERO is driven by vocals, Stevens and Ray hold their own as Watson belts their passionate lyrics. The two queue up songs and mix their tracks live in an effort to give the show a more cohesive and crowd-centric experience. The two have gone on record to say they want their live show to be a more visual experience than a band experience, which can be seen in their elaborate production rig. Despite the limited live elements from Stevens and Ray, Watson's live vocals give their show a resonant feel that could not be matched by studio vocals.
With their second LP facing an impending release, all eyes are on NERO as they prepare the next phase of their live show. The group is slotted to play massive festivals this summer, including Coachella, Lollapalooza and others. The group could is expected to continue to emphasize the visual elements of their show, but the dubstep trio could very well respond to the recent live trends in electronic dance music. We'll just have to wait and see.
Cover Photo Credit: BBC