NeedWant’s latest release is a re-interpretation of a selection from the back catalogue of Nu Groove records, remixed, re-edited and re-invented by one of house music’s latest young Guns, Nicholas, the Italian producer who over the last few years has been making a name for himself as a boy with an ear for a vintage house sound. He is then the perfect culprit (as the press release calls him) to help us re-discover what is for many an almost forgotten, yet epic back catalogue.
Nicholas, the young Italian producer’s profile on Discogs simply reads “Italian producer, based in Perugia and devoted to house”. It is a phrase that can be read at first as somewhat naïve, something idealistic but house has, believe it or not, been something of a dirty word in some circles for many years now. Well dirty if it couldn’t be quantified or pre-fixed with the likes of ‘tech’, ‘big room’, ‘slo mo’ or god forbid ‘funky’. All are of course perfectly good in their own right (well the best examples of each niche group are perfectly good in their own right, except funky which is always a complete load of pony) but whatever happened to just house? Straight up, jacking, sweating, eyes down, hands up, pure, nothing but house music (all night long)?
After a slew of releases and remixes on labels like Home Taping Is Killing Music, Join The Dots, On The Prowl and Need Want, including a subtle rework of house don Robert Owens, the seminal house label Nu Groove have dusted off their back catalogue and placed it in the hands of NeedWant records who have in turn have entrusted it to the young Italian to alter, interpret and curate as he sees fit. It comes at a time when the sounds of vintage house and early garage are once again becoming popular across more than just the more discerning dancefloors across the globe and when young producers such as Nicholas are injecting the deep and primal elements of vintage house with a sound that is once again intuitive and eager. They are not re-inventing the wheel but rather re-introducing the sound of Chicago to a younger audience and at the same time keeping us more mature chaps happy as well.
Nu Groove on the other hand had been there, there being house of course, almost since the very start. It’s a dinosaur of a label, one of the rulers of the game destined only to die out and become extinct almost overnight. The label was based predominantly around the work of the super-talented twins; Ronnie and Rheji Burrell (who had luckily for us escaped a promising R ’n’ B career with Virgin), who were between them responsible for something close to one hundred releases. Nu groove also released tracks from the likes of Joey Negro, Rhythm Masters and Groove Committee as well as Bobby Konders seminal track ‘Nervous Acid’ that was included on his House Rhythms release in 1990 as well as a whole load of Rheji’s solo work released under various monikers such as; Tech Trax Inc, Utopia Project, Metro, NY House’n Authority. The label might have only lasted 4 years but for a short period it became one of the go to record labels for house music. It was a true pioneer but one that has become somewhat forgotten beyond crusty old house heads.
Admittedly some of the later releases were decidedly dodgy, sounding something like but not in a good way sort of like early (commonly known as BF: Before Fourtet) experimental electronica. Created in the early throws of house music’s birth It’s only real competitor for much of its existence was Strictly Rhythm that open in 1989 meaning that for it’s early releases, which were for the most part sure fire dancefloor dynamite, it was firing without a rival worth the name. Nu Groove nailed its colours to the mast and threw itself into the new style of music that was emerging from Chicago and the black, gay underground of America. Whilst not exclusively a house label, it embraced house, it wore its house music influences like a badge. A badge that undoubtedly would have read “American producers, based in New York and devoted to house.”
NeedWant then have dug deep and revisited the zenith of Nu Grooves output, with unique access to what have become almost forgotten (if they were ever well known) artists such as Lisa Lee, Equation and Roqui. Nicholas has chosen 11 tracks and re-crafted them in his image. It’s a snapshot of a time when house music was putting down roots, teeming full of earthy textures, raw and engulfing, all of which have been taken by this young upstart with an undoubted classic touch to be re-imagined in the guise of pulsing basement vibes, all out vocal house bangers, or straight up house dubs. That’s not to say that these vintage tracks have been turned into big room bangers with more break downs than Britney Spears. Swedish house mafia this is not. It’s what we all seemingly these days like to call ‘proper’ (there goes another pre-fix) house but ‘proper’ house that has been filtered through the eyes of a young upstart, through the vision of a lad that is fast making house his home, Like Nu Groove when it first started the sounds seem full of verve and wonder, even if the wonder he is conjuring is the ‘wondering’ of what the hell exactly is going on in that dark corner over there? It’s music that is made to be played in east London basements or under Brixton railway arches, but it’s never too heads down, never too tracky it makes the ladies throw their hands in the air whilst the fellas give each other a knowing look and a slight, if unknowing hint of a sex face. It’s music to dance to; it’s exactly what the best house music is supposed to be.
Whilst you could go down the obvious route of calling this ‘vintage’ or ‘classic’ house music it is simply house, but house that has been remixed or re-edited with an eagerness and wide-eyed naivety that encompassed and was a feature of all the original early house records. Nu Groove might not be the label that non-house music fanatics would remember but it’s a label full of hidden treasures. It’s mostly the work of a pair of producers but producers right at the top of their game unknowingly pushing a type of music that would be held responsible for a cultural revolution. Working at a time when there was no pre-fixes, no rules no barometer of, is this deep or is the funky? Whilst Nicholas will probably be a producer those same people have yet to discover or a young man the old school house brigade may not entirely entrust with their history with but NeedWant’s latest release shows that he is just the man to put the Nu back into Groove.