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

Published at Exclaim.ca

Gil Scott-Heron, spoken word legend, is having one of those incredibly rewarding past-prime years of renewed popular interest. Last year saw the release of comeback record I’m New Here. By December, his YouTube hits likely quadrupled thanks to selective snippets from vintage “Comment #1” being sampled on the closer to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and a teaser leak from We’re New Here, a collaboration record with the XX’s Jamie Smith. The young gun digitizer (now known as Jamie xx) was given carte blanche by the tranquil-voiced old head, so it makes more sense to see We’re New Here as a collaborative effort than a batch of unauthorized remixes. Halfway through intro track “I’m New Here,” which opens with a glitter-dipped monologue, if the traditionalist-meets-future concept doesn’t compute, the low-end theory will get you. Jamie xx thwacks, revs and fuzzes out his bass; his focus on snapping your neck and/or making you dance. There are dips in the reverie (see the plinking “Running”), but, for the most part, it’s all captivating stuff from both contributors. House-y details on “Ur Soul and Mine,” like a muffled intro, limber bass line and sped-up sample-turned-diva vocals, showcase Jamie’s prodigiousness and ability to mine the caverns of electronic music. Scott-Heron’s plaintive piano (“Piano Player”) is the reference point for “NY Is Killing Me,” where his gravelly voice punctuates Jamie’s throbbing, hypnotic melody. Dubstep might be the hook on which Jamie xx’s star hangs, but his choice of collaborator should suggest that he’s beyond trend baiting.
(XL)