The enthusiastic reviews of We're New Here all agreed: this was more than just a remix album. Jamie xx had leapt from the brackets behind the track titles to take joint credit for a project as much his vision as that of the original artist. He stitched together tracks from I'm New Here, Gil Scott-Heron's comeback album, with samples of the singer's earlier work, other classics and outtakes from The xx sessions to create something more than the sum of its parts, and wholly unlike its source material.
But how was Jamie xx able to do all this without compromising the unique voice at the heart of I'm New Here? The answer lies in the young producer's talent, and also in the common thread that runs through both his and Scott-Heron's music: intimacy. The xx owe their success to a zeitgeisty combination of dubstep's hoods-up introspection with the indulgent navel-gazing of indie. For his first new material in 16 years, Gil Scott-Heron turned his back on broader political concerns, and turned inward on himself; the resulting album is run through with uncomfortably confessional lyrics and broken up with revealing spoken-word sections. By combining these two unique approaches to soul music, Jamie xx has created something lyrical, an album that jettisons much of the original's vocals and yet still speaks of love, life and loss.
The highlights of We're New Here conjure a sense of collaboration between two artists who never actually met until after the fact. "My Cloud" takes a song that Gil Scott-Heron left off his album and backs it with gentle vibes and muted clip-hop drums to recreate the sun-drenched haze of Tricky's Maxinquaye. "Ur Soul And Mine" incorporates a sample of "Touch Me" by Rui da Silva, turning a dialogue between the weary narrator of I'm New Here ("the wilderness of heartbreak, the desert of despair") and the naïve songbird of the Ibiza anthem ("I'm always thinking of you baby") into something else entirely: shuffling future garage.
The album will probably be best remembered for its most "dubstep" moments, the shimmering opening track and the feverish, frequency-testing "NY Is Killing Me." After all, these are the cuts that work best in clubs, as Jamie xx set out to prove with a grime mix for BBC 1Xtra which uses the former as a jumping-off point, and a 6 Music set bookended by both. But as he speeds off in another direction, remember to come back to We're New Here to enjoy his (and Gil Scott-Heron's) broadest, most poignant, collection of music to date.
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Tracklist: Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - We're New Here 01. I'm New Here
03. I've Been Me [Interlude]
05. My Cloud
06. Certain Things [Interlude]
07. The Crutch
08. Ur Soul And Mine
09. Parents [Interlude]
10. Piano Player
11. NY Is Killing Me
12. Jazz [Interlude]
13. I'll Take Care Of You