Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx We're New Here
Venturing out from his beatmaking work as one third of international indie darlings The xx, here Jamie xx (né Jamie Smith) gets to fully indulge his own predilection for the sparest of dubstep/post-dubstep via the fantastic and fantastically unclassifiable post-everything comeback record of OG of OGs Gil Scott-Heron. We're New Here is ostensibly a remix record of Heron's 2010 I'm New Here, but "remix" is a bit of a misnomer, as so much of that original record is stripped naked and rebuilt nearly from scratch. Consider the cool handclap blues of "New York Is Killing Me," which Jamie xx renders as a cut-up dubsteppy haunt of tinny electronic melody, skittering drums, and moody fog. The title track also receives an enjoyable overhaul, as it's reworked through a palette of synth glimmer and tumbling bass—again, something like dubstep—and sounds not so much like a remix as an out-and-out cover. Considering that Heron's version is itself a cover of a Smog song, the end result is a kind of bizarro funhouse mirror that morphs together the mostly faithful Heron version, the self-consciously simple and spare original, and a slice of future-forward UK bass music courtesy of Jamie xx.
There are moments—quite a few of them—on We're New Here that are gaspingly pretty and deep, but as a companion piece to the original, there's an unsettling weirdness: what keeps that first record together is Heron, particularly his cool, seen-it-all, out-of-time persona and not so much style or composition, but xx's work loses that in favor of binding the record with the sound of the present. It certainly fits, but you just might miss what's been lost.
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