By Ken Clarke
Following a lengthy stint of drug problems and jail terms, 2010 was a comeback year for American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron when he released I’m New Here, his first studio recording in 16 years. Now, a follow-up of sorts has arrived in We’re New Here.
At the helm is Jamie xx, percussionist and producer of the UK band, The xx, who essentially took free reign while remixing Scott-Heron’s vocals and spoken word pieces to all new music. As is his style, Jamie xx fuses his own electronic and dubstep dance styles with the vocal tracks off the original album. Opening the album is “I’m New Here,” which receives a dramatically different treatment from the sparsely produced original version. Sped up vocals, synth effects and a larger than life drum-and-bass sound dominates Scott-Heron’s voice. The only problem with the album is that it loses some of the raw emotion that marked Scott-Heron’s 2010 release, particularly the album closer “I’ll Take Care Of You,” which was a stand-out track from last year’s effort. Again, the dub version is naturally a far cry from the original, but it lacks the desperate passionate found in last year’s effort.
Despite not being as raw or powerful as the original, the overall result is an interesting and enjoyable amalgamation of two artists who were never in the same studio.