Welcome to the modern-day musical experiment that is Neo Culture Technology, or NCT for short. The K-pop conglomerate now boasts 23 members, from South Korea, China, Japan, the US, and Canada, and four sub-units, or smaller side projects built of fewer members—NCT 127, NCT U, NCT DREAM, and the China-based WayV. Their sophomore LP, out two years after 2018’s NCT 2018 EMPATHY and four years after the group’s debut, arrives in two parts, beginning with the 13-track epic NCT RESONANCE Pt. 1 and the arrival of two new members, Shotaro and Sungchan. Overwhelmed yet? That may very well be the point: NCT is meant to feel larger than life, a towering, tremendous force radicalizing the way popular music is perceived through endless evolution, mirroring technology’s tendency to revolutionize expeditiously—they just do it with surround sound and an open recruitment style.
Of course, NCT’s innovative structure wouldn’t work if the songs didn’t. NCT RESONANCE Pt. 1 is ambitious storytelling across genre, from the crispy Beastie Boys-influenced rap rock of “Misfit,” the new-jack-swing-channeling “Dancing in the Rain,” the electro-pop techno-futurism of “Interlude: Past to Present,” the Euro club of “Music, Dance,” and the R&B balladry of “From Home” to the 2000s-style whistle beat à la Juelz Santana’s “There It Go” on “Make a Wish (Birthday Song),” recorded in both Korean and English on the album—clearly, the double-digital group is unafraid of polish, songs expertly engineered to delight. And to think this is only part one.