Between II Worlds

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Nero shot to fame during the 2011 mainstreaming of dubstep on the backs of killer single "Me and You" and a 2013 Grammy win (with Skrillex) on "Promises." For their sophomore release, Between II Worlds, they finally make secret weapon, Alana Watson, a permanent member of the band. This Fergie-fication has changed the band's sound and aesthetic, creating a trio that aims to become a legitimate live band. Shedding the former dance DJ structure of their debut, they've produced a somewhat shaky new concept that has yet to find its groove.

Fans of Welcome Reality will be pleased by dub-banger "Dark Skies," standard raver "Into the Night," and the pulsing "Circles" and "Two Minds," both of which sound like Disclosure's upbeat work with Jessie Ware. Album highlight "Satisfy" features a metallic riff, sinister groove, and a serious kick, making for a hypnotic dose of sexed-up throb. Watson's vocal work throughout is a vital part of the new vision and she executes it well with dreamy melismatic runs and breathless hushes. The remainder of the album, in large part, relies on cinematic atmospherics more akin to film scoring than the dancefloor (much like M83's work on Oblivion). "Into the Past," "Wasted," and the title track all lend themselves perfectly to potential screen time (with "Into the Past" actually a reworking of a theme written for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby). These are fine stand-alone songs, but in the context of a cohesive album, they shake up the flow -- in some cases disrupting the momentum. As advertised by the title, Nero are stuck between two realities: straddling the worlds of performance and background music, unsure whether they want this to be a cinematic score or a dancefloor smasher. The concept is appreciated, but the execution occasionally falters, especially at the end when things lose speed.

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