Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx – We’re New Here review

On the back of the impeccable teaser single “NY Is Killing Me”, Jamie XX’s overhaul of Gil Scott-Heron’s 2010 album I’m New Here has long been pencilled in as a “must listen” at Juno Plus. If the resultant album delivered even half the forward-thinking, next-level thrills as that single, it would be an essential purchase. Now we’ve had a chance to listen to We’re New Here , that view hasn’t changed. It’s a bit good – though musically it holds a few more surprises than even “NY Is Killing Me” suggested.

Structured like an old-fashioned push-button mixtape with short interludes and skits between tracks, it has the feel of a hip-hop bootleg come good. In fact, its only fault is its short length – at 33 minutes, it’s over before you’ve had a chance to really savour its hazy charms. We’ve listened to it countless times and are still discovering new elements.

It’s true that there’s little quite as gorgeously upbeat and anthemic as “NY Is Killing Me” (included here with a delicious, piano-heavy intro skit), but there’s plenty to get excited about. Musically, it’s something of an eccentric audio soup – an atmospheric mix of loose, skittering beats – predominantly inspired, it seems, by the experimental hip-hop jazz of Madlib and The xx’s own paranoid compositions – booming basslines, sparkling electronic riffs, blissful guitar melodies, dreamy soundscapes and, of course, Scott-Heron’s distinctive narration.

There are, of course, occasional forays into more dancefloor-centric territory (see the delicious “Ur Soul & Mine” or the loose-wristed jazz-breaks of “The Crutch”), but the overall feel is far more laid back and spacious. It’s this vibe, coupled with such sublime moments as closer “I’ll Take Care Of U”,  that makes We’re New Here such an addictive listen.

Matt Anniss