Album Review: Gil Scott-Heron And Jamie XX – We’re New Here (XL)

A cut above the usual remix malarkey, this is brave enough to make its source into something new

Remix albums: so often attempts to flog a lame record’s corpse, lobbing body parts to any Tom, Dick or [a]Simian Mobile Disco[/a]. In an age when albums are ripe for dispersal, try and muster a toss. ‘We’re New Here’ is different, we’re told. Jamie ‘zeitgeisty, young’ xx and Gil ‘legend, old’ Scott-Heron can learn from each other, see? The cynicism is hard to maintain – the pairing works. “Will you show me around?” is the opening challenge, and flaring synths light the descent into dubstep’s abyss as a response.

As a remixer, [a]Jamie xx[/a] seizes on the starkness of last year’s ‘I’m New Here’, rhyming it with the language of space and bass pressure. Overcoming a laboured start – the woozy ‘Home’ feels too respectful – Jamie coaxes fresh narratives from the source material. ‘NY Is Killing Me’’s paranoiac riff is built from a melody featured briefly on the original, while ‘Running’ sees the poet neatly transformed into a King Midas Sound-esque MC-philosopher, his oaken ruminations mirrored by meditative, hoods-up halfstep.

Like Burial, Jamie deals with bass music that’s haunted and associative – sounds filtered through the gauze of a drug-withered memory – and it works best on the outstanding ‘Ur Soul And Mine’. Here, a phrase is looped until shorn of meaning, only to be answered amid stinging house stabs, conversely moving and humane. This is dance music’s banal universalism recast as deliverance, and it’s a highlight.

OK, so ‘We’re New Here’ isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it showcases a producer so in love with the music of now that he not only preserves the power of his source material, but makes it more relevant.

Oh, and it’s a good remix album, too.

Louise Brailey


Order a copy of We’re New Here from Amazon