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The Burrell Brothers and Nu Groove records

August 8, 2013

Trends in dance music are a funny thing. Some seem to grow organically out of local scenes where properly talented individuals experiment and come up with something truly new and exciting. Some are clearly hyped up by music executives out to make some money. Some come about simply as a product of time – via hoards of bored grown ups reminiscing about a misspent youth.

My own preoccupation with early NYC house music probably comes from a bit of all three. About a year ago I noticed Rush Hour records had released a compilation of Burrell Brothers tracks: The-Nu-Groove-Years-1988-1992. It was on Spotify too, so I could listen to my hearts content – on my way to work, sat at my desk, mowing the lawn – doing all the crappy things I have to do these days when not in the vicinity of a record player.

Soon after, I found out Rush Hour were releasing more old NYC house that I’d not heard before like Ben Cenac’s Dream To Science mini-album and Elbee Bad’s The-True-Story-Of-House-Music and that was it for me, I was hooked. I started digging for more of this music that I imagined played at all the amazing clubs I’d dreamed of going to as a young teenager. As my voice had barely started to break til I was about 16, I hadn’t stood a chance… Since then, it’s been hard to avoid the ‘deep house revival’ that has gone off in many different directions over the past few years, ushered on by brilliant producers and DJs, opportunist record companies and old farts like me.

Such is the world – in time, new exciting scenes will develop, the executives will find other ways to get rich and I’ll be left with these dreams of the misspent youth I wish I’d had…

Where was I… Oh yeah, The Burrell Brothers!

Rhano (aka Ronald) and Rheji Burrell (NYC House’s Krays?!) started Nu Groove records in 1988 as an outlet for some of their more experimental musical adventures. They had already signed to Virgin a year earlier to release more vocal, poppy house records like the one up there, but as Rheji said in an interview with Fact magazine last year:

Directly across the hall from the gym [where I taught] was the cafeteria, and they’d move all the seats out and this guy would come and play eclectic music, sort of like Larry Levan. But at some point he’d play these tracks, and that was what got me. They were so raw and dirty and wrong, the EQs was fucked up, the singing was off, you had chanting and moaning and all types of crazy shit. And it seemed like the sexiest girls liked that – they just started sweating and grinding to that stuff – and I said ‘I like that kinda stuff!’

Rheji was teaching Kung Fu at Rutgers University (truly, these guys are the gift that keep on giving…) and had started working with his brother on a 2nd album of more underground tracks that Virgin wouldn’t touch. He was approached by Frank and Karen Mendez (who was working at Fourth Floor records – more on them soon) with a suggestion of creating their own label to release their music.

nu groove smallNu Groove was very much a reflection of New York’s house sound from its first release in 1988 – as Rheji says in this interview with Rush Hour records:

we were very insulated by the fact that we were in New York. We kind of exploited what was going on there because there are enough clubs, enough musicians, there were enough people going to clubs. We didn’t really have to look outside by what we were doing. So we were successful in New York and that’s all we needed to be. My friends, my DJs, the people that I hung around. If they knew what we were doing, then we were doing it right. We put the records out and everybody at the club heard it, if we went to 15 different clubs and all the DJs knew exactly what we were doing.

Nu Groove would go on to release records by all sorts of NYC artists like Bobby Konders, Basil Hardhouse, even the first record by Masters At Work, but the Burrell Brothers were by far the most prolific. Anyway, enough of me – here’s a wobbly video of a whole load of them talking about Nu Groove and a few more of their great tunes:

From → Artists, Labels

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