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

Released 18 February 2011
Producer Jamie xx
Label XL Recordings
Length 36:31
Genre Electronic, spoken word
Website www.werenewhere.com

This album is most likely going to be heralded as a collaboration of innovators, in one corner we have Gil Scott-Heron, an artist synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement and a man recognized as one of the major inspirations of rap. In the other corner we have Jamie xx, one third of Mercury Prize winning band The xx and current flavour of the month for his production and remixing skills. The premise? Jamie xx has raided recordings and unused tracks from Scott-Heron’s 2010 comeback album I’m New Here, given them a makeover in his own inimitable style and released it as We’re New Here.

What’s clear from listening to We’re New Here is that Jamie xx is not afraid to mix things up, so much so that this album sounds virtually unrecognizable from I’m New Here. The mood of the album has changed significantly, the chilled out vibe of the original has been replaced by a full on dance feel. We’re New Here begins with the title track from the original, 'I’m New Here'. The acoustic backing is swapped for dancefloor synths and a hook that sounds like it’s come from an
outtake of The Avalanches. 'NY is Killing Me' exchanges the bluesy vibe and ghetto claps from I’m New Here for a more claustrophobic feel with Scott-Heron’s vocals looped throughout.

There are some notable omissions, the most obvious being the two parts of 'On Coming From a Broken Home', Scott-Heron’s musings on his upbringing that bookend the original. To balance the deficit there are also some welcome additions to the track listing, the picks of the bunch being the slow moving 'My Cloud', which has Scott-Heron crooning like Nat King Cole and 'Piano Player' a short insight into Scott-Heron’s reason for piano playing set to a simple piano accompaniment.

Music-wise, credit is definitely due to Jamie xx, there’s nothing generic in the remixes. Each song takes on a new life, one that wasn’t an obvious progression from I’m New Here. Where the album does fall down for me slightly is in Gil Scott-Heron’s role in the album. The original I’m New Here was a very personal and emotional insight into a troubled man however his role at times is demoted to a collection of looped samples that belittle the message of his lyrics. Had both artists sat down and created something from scratch, something that mixed theme and soundtrack together, this could have been a great collaboration. As it stands it is a highly listenable album but one that falls slightly short of the sum of its parts.

- Brian Kinsella