Nicholas: Nu Groove: Back On Track

So here's a a great idea: resurrect a backlog of fabulous 1988-1992 house tracks from the Nu Groove vaults and then update them by bringing in a contemporary producer, in this case the young Italian DJ Nicholas, to get his fingers all over the material. As a result, the newly interpreted music feels anything but dated but instead as alive and fresh as if it had been produced yesterday. For the record, the New York-based Nu Groove imprint, co-piloted by twins Ronnie and Rheji Burrell, issued more than 100 releases during a four-year period when house music was in its early stages of development and thus refreshingly raw. Part of the reason that the material sounds so current can be attributed in part to a recent gravitation towards the soulful extroversion of house's beginnings—consider Yore's entire catalogue as evidence. In fact, while listening to Roqui's “I've Just Begun To Love You,” I found myself for a moment thinking I was listening to something by Rick Wade rather than Nicholas's Nu Groove project. Certainly the slamming, hi-hat-driven beat pattern and congas wouldn't sound out of place in a Wade cut, and the detail is telling in suggesting that devotees of Yore's old-school house vibe also would find much to love about Back On Track.

Every one of the collection's eleven cuts gets a Nicholas makeover, so the album as a whole feels cohesive, despite the fact that all of the tracks are by different artists. The early days of classic house breathes through the music, and there's an exuberance and joy about the material that makes the recording all the more appealing. The sound is full, maximal, and creamy, and vocalists wail with soulful abandon in vibrant throwdowns like Bäs Noir's “I'm Glad You Came To Me” and Emjay's “Come ‘N Get It.” A moog synthesizer is but one of many keyboards imbuing N.Y. House'n Authority's “Apt1A” with a warmth and richness that nicely complements the tune's groove. Augmented by thumping bass lines and percussion, the tracks' beats are crisp, funky, and tight, and though a title such as “Domm Domm, Yeah, mm hmm” by Equation doesn't promise much, the track hits as hard as anything else on the release. All praise to Nicholas for updating Nu Groove's material without sacrificing its essence in the process. Vintage house music never sounded so good.

January 2012