Gil Scott-Heron proved he still had it on 2010's I'm New Here, his first album in 16 years. Simultaneously, Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx) established himself as a sonic architect on his band's moody, minimal debut, then as a producer remixing other artists and DJing in clubs across the U.K.
This pair comes together on We're New Here, the remix of Scott-Heron's album. It is structured in similar fashion to its predecessor: 13 tracks with songs broken by four brief interludes; the set is rhythm-heavy and suffocatingly close, but not a track-for-track take. Richard Russell's production on I'm New Here kept Scott-Heron's voice front and center; Smith displaces it often, all but covering it with effects, beats, and pitched vocals in styles that cross the electronic music gamut from house to electro to dubstep. "I'm New Here" begins skeletally; Scott-Heron recites solo before a keyboard shimmers in.
We're New Here is a mercurial collaboration; it's full of nods to other club styles and eras, but Smith's expansive direction is his own. He accomplishes a difficult task in successfully (re)presenting Scott-Heron's music -- integrity intact -- in the present tense to a fickle yet discerning groove-centric culture without kitsch or excess.