We're New Here
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx (XL/Young Turks 2011)
Music review by Sebastian Gahan 4/3/2011
Some things just don't seem a good idea, and I admit that when I first heard the rumours of this collaboration between the legendary Gil Scott-Heron and The XX's Jamie xx, I was as skeptical as Agent Scully in an early episode of The X Files.
As with Agent Scully, I was proved very wrong indeed. Just as extraterrestrial non-biological entities took Scully with them, so did Gil and Jamie throw me into the boot of their car and mess with my head. Not literally of course, as that would be some scoop, but in a strictly aural manner. Jamie xx's electronic vibes mix surprisingly well with Heron's newly rough and wizened vocals, and make a perfect chill-out experience to which you can close your eyes and relax, or get up and be active.
Initially I found this album distant and somewhat cold, but after a few listens it developed an off-kilter charm and profound emotional resonance. Maybe some people will ask themselves if dancemusic, considered less than artful by many, can create such a sensation and I argue that it can. Jamie xx's remakes of title track I'm New Here and older song My Cloud are examples of this and there are more highlights too when you listen intently.
I'll Take Care of You is remade with overtly dance-driven piano-backing and drum-machines, and is as effective as the original, just as NY Is Killing Me is remade with less of the blues-driven scat of the original and more danceability; thus making a piece with the sonic urgency of a night out in New York, evoking the lights and sounds in a way that many straight dancemusic albums do. Interludes Piano Player and Jazz are also short and effective, with the former offering a monologue about Heron's piano, and the latter being a sample from his older track Is That Jazz? that blends in perfectly. It also suggests that Jazz is the original dance music thus providing a neat counterbalance to this modern form of dancemusic that fits Heron's forward looking vision so well.
Seek this out and you may be surprised that you enjoy it immensely, and instantly connect with its innately human core.
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