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Nero

Nero are two young producers, remixers, DJs and dance artists from North West London who, in 2011, have taken the music world by storm. And “storm” is about right when it comes to describing the epic noise they make, with its thunderous dubstep bass, whirlwind drum’n’bass and hail of house rhythms, lightning flashes of rave synths, squall of orchestra, and occasional showers of guitar.


The storm broke in early 2011, when Dan Stephens and Joe Ray, as Nero, were one of the 12 newcomers in the BBC’s prestigious annual Sound of... list of names to watch, from a poll of critics and music industry tastemakers. Since then, success for the pair hasn’t been so much intermittent as a downpour: in January, their single Me & You peaked at number 15, the follow-up, Guilt, went top 10, reaching number 8 in April, and in June they headlined the WOW stage at Glastonbury and had their Dubstep Symphony performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Not that they appeared out of nowhere at the start of the year. Born in 1984, Joe and Dan, who first met in 2000, do have a pre-history on the club scene and dance underground, veterans of the nightclub Fabric, where they rubbed shoulders with the drum’n’bass and dubstep elite. They have had their fair share of releases on all the right labels, won several awards and done remixes for the great and good, including The Streets, La Roux, deadmau5, N*E*R*D and Daft Punk. But their first official release, Innocence, didn’t come out till April 2010, when it climbed to number 16 and 11, respectively, on the Dance and Independent charts.

Stadium rock, electro-funk, jazz and classical music, movie soundtracks, rave, the beats of drum’n’bass and the distorted subsonic basslines and production methods of dubstep... Factor in the freaktronic 90s releases of the Warp label (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher) and you’ve got the recipe for a superb album. A Nero album, in fact.



Welcome Reality is that album. A distillation of 30 years of dance, from disco to dubstep, with some rock thrown in. Fourteen tracks, and one hour, of melodic dance mayhem, it was recorded in the same South London studio used by Shy FX, Caspa and Nero's label bosses Chase & Status, featuring music written and produced by themselves, using equipment both new and “vintage”, with some of the iconic 80s synths - a Roland Jupiter 8 and Yamaha CS80 - that the likes of Madonna, Prince and Duran Duran used. The lyrics were also self-penned, with some help from their regular singer Alana Watson. The only outside assistance came from a guitarist friend called Bush, and a certain 80s megastar called Daryl Hall, who provided a cameo on the track Reaching Out.

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