GIL SCOTTHERON AND JAMIE XX We’re New Here ( XL/ Young Turks)
‘We’re New Here’ does what many great albums do: it drops you into a strange new world and then shows you around.
When Gil Scott-Heron surfaced in 2010 with his first collection of new material in 16 years, the resulting album,
I’m New Here, was more or less exactly what you’d expect: a soulful, introspective portrait of the artist as a cagey survivor and a batch of songs that freshened the concept of the griot while subtly reminding listeners of Scott-Heron’s role in hip-hop’s conception. The album was rightly celebrated but contained little surprises outside of its very existence — which, admittedly, was enough. By comparison, this remix album by Jamie Smith of the xx is a constant revelation. When Scott-Heron starts off by saying “I’m new here,” you believe him; this is strange territory for all but those who follow up-to-the-second electronic music trends. Indeed, Smith gives Scott-Heron a minimalist backdrop of deep bass and stuttering percussion that cycles through many of these trends, from dubstep to IDM, disco to drum and bass. Smith even samples Scott-Heron’s earlier singing on standout tracks “My Cloud” and “I’ll Take Care of U,” creating an echo chamber in which Scott-Heron’s voice wraps around itself and springs off of the lively rhythms. The remixes aren’t “improvements,” but they’re not intended to be. We’re New Here does what many great albums do: it drops you into a strange new world and then shows you around.