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Album Review
We're New Here

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

XL Recordings

Review Date
12th April 2011
Reviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam

I’m New Here was an excellent return to form for ‘70s music pioneer Gil Scott-Heron. The all-too-brief album marked the end of a long hiatus for Scott-Heron and hopefully showcased his singular talent to younger fans. However, for an album that was so heavily based around Scott-Heron’s impressions of New York, it seemed a risk for a precocious Londoner to take on the re-mix. However, Jamie xx’s take on the album makes it sound even much more optimistic than Scott-Heron’s piece. Whether it’s as resonant as Gil Scott-Heron on his lonesome is certainly arguable, but Jamie xx’s effective re-casting of the tracks and canny use of Scott-Heron’s voice makes for a highly enjoyable and moody listen.

The album came out of mutual fandom (or at least, Scott-Heron’s producer was a big fan of the xx’s debut album). The two barely communicated about the album, a few letters here and there, and while Scott-Heron is given equal credit, this is much more of a Jamie xx creation. The album’s contrasts Jamie xx’s deeply contemporary use of electronica: dubstep, ambient, drum’n’bass etc with his use of Scott-Heron’s archaic voice. Older Scott-Heron samples are thrown in alongside other eclectic samples (Rui da Silva, Gloria Gaynor etc.). The album is so eclectic that it sometimes doesn’t completely cohere, but there are some wonderful moments throughout – the evocative ‘My Cloud’, the slippery ‘NY Is Killing Me’, and not least of all, the album closer, ‘I’ll Take Care of U’.

We’re New Here becomes a fitting and deeply reverent tribute to Scott-Heron’s influence on modern day music – indeed, electronic, hip-hop, disco, funk etc. were all indebted in some small way to Scott-Heron’s music. And Jamie xx is happy to doff his hat to Scott-Heron, turning him into an Old Testament prophet and forcibly filtering what was originally a jaded and decadent album through the fresh music Scott-Heron inspired.

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