If you spend enough time at a concert, you’ll probably say you’ve heard enough. There could be any number of reasons for this, but there is probably only one. Either the performer has done the job and you’re satisfied or hasn’t and you’re played out, if not played. By played out, I mean you’ve cheered one too many times. When a set doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s your job to lower them. When you’re down, get yourself up. You have to get up to get down.
Going in cold makes you pleasantly surprised. Indeed, the cold logic of the universe has a nice way of thwarting disappointment: something is always better than nothing. Isn’t that something? Bless you, God. “It’s nothing.” Why even bother getting excited? Anticipation is immaterial. You can’t hold a candle to the wind. Life is always going to blow you off or blow you away. Then again, there is positivity in meeting calculations. 2 + 2 is 4? What a relief.
Unlike Welcome Reality, I hadn’t cycled through their new material. In 2011, Nero was a staple of blogs and brothels alike. They were making noise. You heard them everywhere, in part, because it was so loud. I have seen them compared unfavorably to Michael Bay: “loud, crass, periodically fun, but ultimately forgettable.” On some level, this type of review misses the point. Many producers would take such faint praise and run with it from an explosion.
Generally, EDM has humble ambitions. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they just want to spin it like a vinyl record. It has to be crisp enough for your earbuds, but bombastic. Ultimately, these artists make most of their money touring. Audiences at major gatherings do not pay attention. That is, they do not pay you with their attention. Output tickets landed in the $20 range. Naturally, I’m talking about a club. Pier 94 is $75 with Armin van Buuren.
It’s funny when someone says EDM is forgettable. Insubstantial? Certainly. But this genre trades in catchy. Typically, DJs have an hour to convince you they’re here to stay. Once they brand you, it’s utter disbelief. You can’t believe they’re gone since their music is still ringing in your ears. Did you buy in? Will you buy their singles? How do you know? “Cause it’s all in my head, I think about it over and over again.”
You know it when you hear it. Again.
Part of what makes people think EDM is forgettable is precisely that there are so many memorable tunes. As someone who listens as much as anyone doesn’t, I still get melodies confused. It might be said, therefore, that EDM registers immediately, but checks out just as soon. Even then, it’s not that these songs are forgettable, but that they are interchangeable. This is also true of other genres. Try humming John Williams. One after the other.
And if you’re a real masochist, feel free to add some Jurassic Park to the ending.
Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman. These are some of the greatest melodies in the world, but they are very similar. It’s like rubbing your belly, patting your head, and then singing, if not all at once. EDM requires a sophisticated palette, right? Anthems are like shades of gray. If these are not memorable, they certainly take up memory. In order to be forgotten, something has to be retained. It may not be that they are the same, but that they look for the same reaction.
Just because something drops doesn’t mean it has depth. EDM makes you feel good about feeling good. If you counter that it’s the Molly, I would tell you that Molly is always the Molly. In addition, there are only so many emotions. Intensity varies, but any repertoire of emotions contains the same variables. Inside Out typifies the usual suspects: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. You may disagree with the category, but it’s there.
“Must be the feeling, it brings to you
That makes you feel what to do.”
Ask yourself, “is this DJ credible?” Incredible? Feelings persist, exploited by music. EDM is all about how many different ways you can say the same thing. Usually, it’s an expression of love. The special kind of love you save for strangers or people you don’t know. There is a very simple way to tell if EDM is any good. If you shout it from the mountaintops, will all the flowers in the valley die? It’s just like when a DJ tries out new music for the first time. Love it or hate it,
“You choose, you choose.”
The song remains the same. I have not changed my tune. “And we’re back!” Going into Nero, I expected pretty deep bass. Output is known for having excellent sound quality, but it always depends on the music. I went in with uncertainty. The speakers purr like Schrödinger’s Cat. A barmaid kindly sells me water for an arm and a leg; you need those for dancing, but we’re 60% water. Everybody is positive. You don’t need to ask to sense that most people are here for Nero.
A safer bet is that Nero is here for you, but I won’t quote myself on that. What’s nice about the bathrooms is that you get a stall to yourself, but, given how many people appeared to have used it, you’d might as well be sharing. Then again, this is true of any bathroom by the end of the night. It’s actually pretty nice, equipped with attendants. This is slightly out of place in the very casual atmosphere, but you could flip it and argue everything else is out of place.
The club is evidently about dancing. It’s cool that you can show up in sneakers, because I think people should wear them all the time. If you don’t take advantage of technology, you’d might as well go barefoot. Later, I stood in front of the speakers to see how they would stack up. Vertically or horizontally? A bit of both. Output boasts a custom Funktion-One system that does stuff you don’t even know about. All that and more. Subtle. It’s so good, you can’t even hear it.
It practically conducts itself, like HAL 9000. You just need to play all the right music. My hearing probably isn’t good enough to say how good it or the speakers, for that matter, really are. All the same, the speakers were such that they almost make up for your shortcomings like a transient cochlear implant. Funktion-One makes the real world sound like a forgery. Imitation audio. These speakers could make a chainsaw sound like harp glissandos.
It turns out I never really knew what sound was supposed to sound like. Maybe this is why I put up with EDM. You turn on Swedish House Mafia, but think you’re listening to the Bee Gees. It was like, after being colorblind your entire life, you finally put on glasses. I was almost the reverse of Stevie Wonder. The only difference is that I quit piano in 7th grade. Funktion-One never gets too loud. You can be right next to the speakers and hear everything. Discern.
Nero begins with “Satisfy.” I’m drawn to the atmosphere. Between II Worlds is another concept album. One benefit is the ability to implement a narrative arc. With all EDM, however, the relationship between lyrics and meaning is ambiguous. They could be talking about anything. Chocolate chip muffins. Archery. Lidocaine. Again, I’m not terribly concerned with lyrics. And it doesn’t matter because Nero excels at making pop.
In fact, I wish they’d drop the cyberpunk and make more diverse music. Being fixed to a certain aesthetic can be limiting. Disco? They have a knack for writing vocal hooks. Alana Watson is a good singer even when it’s Joe and Daniel. But the problem with concepts is when you switch noticeably. About ⅗ through, Nero began playing some fairly conventional deep house. It was a little awkward because the ambiance had been so consistent. Unwelcome reality.
It was almost like warming up for exercise when you’re halfway through it. I think the way I’d categorize Welcome Reality is by the number of songs I like. Alternatively, Between II Worlds has several I don’t. The latter isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as the former. In any case, everything Nero makes is meant for big speakers, and experiencing their music in Output was glorious. All I could think about was the opening credits for Batman Beyond.
Nero scoring the dystopian world of Batman Beyond? I think that’s pretty inspired. But most inspiring of all was the light technician. He had obviously mastered the admittedly minimalistic display. Even though there weren’t too many choices, he made each one with verve and gusto. He was much more into it than Nero, who focused on their decks. He looked like Skrillex up there. You could tell he was making the equivalent of dubstep on a lighting motherboard.
I think Nero omitted “The Thrill,” which was disappointing because it’s the second best song on the album. Appropriately, they returned from deep house purgatory and finished with “Into the Night,” their best new song, and “Me and You,” their best old song. Output did a good job of monitoring the capacity. Initially, I thought people just didn’t show up because it was a ‘school night,’ so to speak. Eventually I realized this was intentional. Schooled.
I can only imagine what we must have looked like from Nero’s perspective…Pacha can take notes on butt funnels and respecting the maximum capacity.
After they finished, Nero set the CDJs to play “I Do Coke,” by Kill the Noise & Feed Me, which is becoming a sort of hymn in the way of #SELFIE. All the people were nice and the sound was great. With an exceptional roof, Output is a destination. Solid. If you’re looking for a musical experience over the frills of clubbing oblivion, you could do much worse. Nero is playing? This is music to my ears.
Here’s a little rundown of what makes Nero great…
The first thing I think of when Nero comes to mind is:
The opener in this set:
First to set the mood on WR:
So many great vocals:
Good headphone music for 7 minutes:
And this borders irritating, yet has good moments:
Superb MJ remix:
Syndicate theme (Nero version):
Second best off BIIW:
Best old song:
Best new song: