New band of the day – No 929: Nero

This DJ duo combine drum'n'bass and dubstep with elements of 90s house and trance to create an unlikely sonic alliance

Hometown: London.

The lineup: Dan Stephens, Joe Ray.

The background: Not that we worry about these things – much – but we assumed if a dubstep act was going to make it on to the BBC's Sound of 2011 long list it would be one of the "intelligent dubstep" chaps such as Phaeleh, Becoming Real or Pariah, but in fact it was these purveyors of chart-bound chav-step. That's not an indictment of Nero, by the way, just an expression of our bewilderment that when it comes to dubstep it's often the most commercially minded producers that are most critically adored.

Nero's music really does what it says on the tin. Dan Stephens and Joe Ray have been praised for merging drum'n'bass and dubstep with elements of 90s house and trance, genres that might strike you as irreconcilable. And then you hear the euphoric synth stabs and soaring diva vocals, the grinding beats and wobbly, super-distorted basslines and you realise that's exactly what they're doing. But it makes sense: now in their mid-20s, Stephens and Ray began making drum'n'bass in the mid-noughties before pursuing a more dubstep direction, with feted remixes of the Streets, La Roux, N*E*R*D and Beyoncé. Now they're combining elements of the two dance genres they know best.

Their new single, Me and You, starts like an obscure 80s synth track before becoming a sort of metallic rock-disco. Previous single Innocence is precisely what happens when you ally rave anthemics with the diva vocals of a 90s hit by Bizarre Inc or K Klass, plus the floor-shuddering bassquake of dubstep. The production is bold and bleepy and the bit in the middle where everything except the keyboards stop (is that a "drop"? We haven't been to a club since the days when Jimmy Saville invented "decknology"), before the bludgeoning bass comes bursting back in, is supremely arresting.

Electron comprises icy electronics plus cut-up soul diva vocals and a super-fast skittering drum'n'bass rhythm while Do You Wanna is weird, like sped-up OutKast swing R&B played by hyped-up robots. Early club hit This Way featuring the vocals of one Alana is dub'n'bass/ravestep. Act Like You Know is interesting: Nero have issued two versions of it, dubstep and drum'n'bass, but the one we've heard features elements of both so it's not exactly a fusion – more like a frictional alliance of previously hostile opposites. You can see why electronic dance/soundtrack mavens Chase & Status have signed them: Act ... would have worked superbly in that Michael Caine thriller where he tortures Plan B. A pleasurable pain on the ears.

The buzz: "They are doing their best to balance the bass overload of dubstep and the melodic narrative of traditional songs" – The New Yorker.

The truth: They haven't chased status, they've acquired it by bludgeoning clubbers, or clubbing bludgeoners, into submission.

Most likely to: Torch plans to keep dubstep and drum'n'bass separate.

Least likely to: Torture Plan B.

What to buy: The single Me and You/Welcome Reality is released by MTA on 3 January.

File next to: Magnetic Man, Chase & Status, Tiesto, Deadmau5.


Tuesday's new band: Yasmin.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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