Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx - We're New Here

As a listener who is partial to the odd remix, I have always believed that a good remix should follow one of two rules. It should either A) Keep the core of the original song and simply add a beat, or B) Take the original track and change it into something else entirely. On We’re New Here – a re-interpretation of Gil Scott-Heron’s 2010 comeback album by the xx beatmaker with big hair Jamie Smith – the latter rule is key, and stands as the main reason why We’re New Here is such a success.

You’d be forgiven for being skeptical about We’re New Here – A critically acclaimed album by a cult hero being tinkered with by a south London up and comer – It is rather gimmicky on the face of it. Like when I first heard that Kanye was going playing about with King Crimson samples on one of his new tracks, I was apprehensive. But then I got my shit together and realised that “POWER” is an awesome track, and so too We’re New Here is an awesome album. Smith has used Scott-Heron’s voice as a core throughout and moulded his work around vocal snippets and samples; there’s not much attempt made to be ‘respectful’ to the original works in the traditional sense. We’re New Here is meant to showcase what Smith can do, and he does that by using Scott-Heron’s worn and cracked vocals to add a poignancy and weight, but his tunes are the stars of the show.

Standout track “NY Is Killing Me” uses Scott-Heron’s wail and transforms the original from a bluesy monologue to a dark and sinister club track- thanks to an irresistible bass groove and some standard chipmunk vocals. It’s perhaps the darkest moment on the album, and it’s a prime example of the energy driving this album – We’re New Here clocks in at a modest thirty-five minutes. Stunning opener “New Here” cleverly uses Scott-Heron describing, “I met a woman in a bar, told her I was hard to get to know/And near impossible to forget”. Set against this, Smith has delved deep into an obviously rich pool of influences and matched Scott-Heron with a sped up Gloria Gaynor sample of, “I met him at a party, he said the sweetest things/I was lonely and naive, I guess that’s why I believed every word”. It’s a slightly leftfield call and response piece that works brilliantly, and Smith’s background textures make it dark and urgent. “Running” actually uses Scott-Heron’s voice as the main instrument of the track, and it actually seems as if the track is headed no-where- until the American’s final message of “Run” is delivered and Smith’s beats take over.

The darker moments are spine tingling, but the reprieves are just as gratifying. Centrepiece “My Cloud” soothes the listener into the album’s closing stages with a beat owing a lot to the likes of FlyLo and Four Tet. Refreshingly using a sample of Scott-Heron singing rather than grumbling, the moody iconoclast is briefly transformed into a soul guru, and “My Cloud” is a beautiful track in its own right. So too is We’re New Here‘s glorious exhale; “Take Care Of You”. It’s actually a track that sounds as if it could fit somewhere into the catalogue of The xx, Smith deploying his secret weapon- that guitar line- just as Scott-Heron croons, “I’ve loved and I’ve lost” to devastating effect. It’s sad, but the cinematic atmosphere and the music- as it did on the XX debut- keeps the listener from dwelling on the depressing. It’s just on the right side of overwhelming.

We’re New Here is not a Gill Scott-Heron album, and it is not an xx album. As long as you approach it from this standpoint, you find it a rewarding listen. If you’re listening to it with the intention of being offended by some kid from London tampering with Gill Scott-Heron songs, then you probably will be. Similarly, this probably doesn’t give us any insights into what new xx material is going to sound like. Instead We’re New Here is a work in its own right; A dark and cinematic remix album with more than a few nods to the greats- old and new.

1. I’m New Here
2. Home
3. I’ve Been Me (Interlude)
4. Running
5. My Cloud
6. Certain Things (Interlude)
7. The Crutch
8. Ur Soul And Mine
9. Parents (Interlude)
10. Piano Player
11. NY Is Killing Me
12. Jazz (Interlude)
13. I’ll Take Care Of U

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx - We're New Here, reviewed by Lemon on 2011-03-10T11:41:34-08:00 rating 4.1 out of 5

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