The seminal NYC stable's back catalogue more than repays re-evaluation
After well-received sets showcasing classic labels like Movin', Sub-Urban and Fourth Floor, Luke Solomon's Defected sub-label turn their attention to the back catalogue of Frank and Karen Mendez's Nu Groove stable, which operated out of New York from 1988-92. The resulting 25-track compilation could well be the best in the series yet.
What's most noticeable is the sheer breadth of the compilation: it's no exaggeration to say that just about everything that happened in house music's first 10 years or so of history can be found in embryonic form here. Nu Groove never was a label that stuck to a particular sound, so tracks range from Equation's The Answer, a 1989 nugget that presages Belgian techno and UK rave by a year or two, to Aphrodisiac's 1990 cut Song Of The Siren, which apart from the spoken male vocal wouldn't sound entirely out of place on an early Orb album. There are jaunts into slightly poppier territory (see: Roqui's vaguely Janet Jackson-esque Lover and Bas Noir's piano-sprinkled My Love Is Magic, which veers towards freestyle), there are straight-up Chi-town jackers (Bas Noir again with I'm Glad You Came To Me, Metro's Angel Of Mercy), there are soaring Detroitian strings (NY House'n Authority's Apt 1B), there's early, Fingers Inc-style deep house (Tech Trax Inc with Feel The Love), there's tribal-tinged deep garage (Equation's I'll Say A Prayer For You). And if you're looking for stone-cold killers, try the deep, bassy throb of The Utopia Project's File #2 or the dreamy, J.Negro-esque disco-garage of K.A.T.O's stunning Disco-Tech.
Admittedly, one or two cuts don't stand up quite as well, while the breathy sex-talk that adorns NY House'n Authority's Tilden House and DTR's Journey Into A Dream might get you a few funny looks in the current climate. But that matters not one jot, because what you have here is one brimming truckload of classic house n' garage (and a little bit of techno) goodness. Whether you're a dewy-eyed middle-aged nostalgist or an eager young student of house music history, this is pretty much unmissable.
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: 23 November
Review Score: 9