Review by Eugenia Vela.
Gil Scott-Heron’s Spirits was released in 1994. Sixteen years later, the musician/poet proved his relevancy and timeless talent with the release of I’m New Here. Another year has gone by and We’re New Here has dropped. A remix of Scott-Heron’s last album with Jamie Smith (known professionally as Jamie xx) of London-based band The xx, We’re New Here manages to take what’s good from the original material and make it better.
“I did not become someone different that I did not want to be.” Those are the opening lines of Scott-Heron’s “I’m New Here.” If you look at the musician’s career, the poet in him has never left. He continues to create emotionally powerful material. His writing is still personal, still political, still speaks of what we’re living and what he’s lived through. In We’re New Here, Smith incorporates his own sounds—modern and energetic, but still incredibly soothing—and creates a beautiful balance of both his and Scott-Heron’s talents.
Even though Scott-Heron remains up to date in the music scene, Smith delivers further with elements of trance, techno and electronic noise that opens the album to the possibility of could-be party music. If you walk into a club today, “Home,” “Running,” “Ur Soul and Mine” or “NY Is Killing Me” could be playing and they would be perfectly fitting with the scene. The collection is young and contemporary with enough depth to be played and replayed to take in its many layers.
The album’s 13 songs (including four interludes) are mixed and remastered in such a way that you know you’re dealing with intelligent, educated musicians who know how to take the best from decades past and make it remarkably relevant. The title track meshes Scott-Heron’s poetry with Gloria Gaynor’s “Casanova Brown.” “Home” includes words from the song of the same name from Scott-Heron’s 1971 album, Pieces of a Man. It’s obvious this collection was created not just as a remix, but as if made from scratch, a thoughtful collaboration of style and infectious groove. Ironically, if there’s a single weakness in We’re New Here it’s that even though it combines styles throughout music history, the remix may not live as long.
We’re New Here is a bit of a stretch from what I usually go for. So to all the techno haters out there, you should know you’re not dealing with your average experimental electro/techno/house bullshit. This collaboration steers far away from superficiality and (even with its influences of UK garage) manages to be beautiful and soothing enough to play right before bedtime, and inspiring enough to get you pumped as soon as you wake up.
Watch the video for “NY Is Killing Me” below: