Album Review: Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX, We're New Here

By Scott Kara

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Gil Scott-Heron. Photo / Mischa Richter
Gil Scott-Heron. Photo / Mischa Richter

This remix album is a collaboration between Jamie Smith of hushed electronic rockers The xx and Gil Scott-Heron, the 1970s street poet and revolutionary rapper.

Scott-Heron's original album, I'm New Here, from last year was his first in 13 years following spells in jail on drugs charges. It was a potent reflection on his life and where he's headed.

While it's fair to say We're New Here is probably more about the sonics, with Smith's shuddering and morphing manipulation of the music taking precedence over Scott-Heron's words, the spoken-word magic (like the brilliantly dark "In the wilderness of heartbreak and a desert of despair", from Ur Soul and Mine) is never lost.

Home rides along on piercing out-of-kilter rhythms with the poet's madman-like mutterings; Running is like mutant dubstep with its punishing deep bass and strobing beats offset by Scott-Heron's soothing rant; and My Cloud is a shimmering serenade reminiscent of Boards of Canada's ambient whimsy.

Elsewhere the stirring Piano Player is an eerie acoustic shock before the stunning highlight, NY Is Killing Me, which is taken out of its double-dutch, hand-clap form and turned into a beautifully agitating piece of electronic music.

While the pair are very different (Smith is a young white British instrumentalist and Scott-Heron a black veteran American wordsmith), together they've managed to make a great album more strange and intriguing - and for some listeners it may have even made it better.

Stars: 4/5
Verdict: Remixed into something entirely new


- NZ Herald

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