Album review: Gil Scott-Heron's and Jamie xx's 'We're New Here'
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx make music about seemingly opposite subjects. Scott-Heron's long career in spoken word and proto-rap anticipated hip-hop's rage, and his exquisitely bedraggled tone is its own evidence for the toll of urban decay. Jamie xx, the very young beatsmith for the experimental trio the xx, helms that band's hormonal, minimalist suites about teen lust. But they both ask one big question in their music: What happens when you lose control? On "We're New Here," a full-album remix of Scott-Heron's 2010 record, "I'm New Here," the duo lends each other gravitas and levity on this very curious but ultimately immersive LP.
Scott-Heron's brutal, searing original record was rooted in guttural blues and creaking electronica (courtesy of XL founder Richard Russell), but on "We're New Here" Jamie xx lets some fresh air in. "My Cloud" is a sample-damaged bit of Sunday morning soul, and a looped Scott-Heron makes the house-infused dubstep track "Ur Soul & Mine" feel deliciously stalkerish. The beats are enticingly broken and reggae-indebted, but the best move on "We're New Here" is to underline Scott-Heron's humor -- the title track and "Piano Player" catch him chuckling at baser pursuits like picking up girls at bars. Scott-Heron may have lent Jamie xx his most charged vocal material yet, but the young producer in turn finally gets him to loosen up.
-- August Brown
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx
"We're New Here"
Three stars (Out of four)