Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Although much hailed -- perhaps because no one expected to hear from him again -- last year's I'm New Here by American poet Gil Scott-Heron did seem a little under-developed: pieces faded out, other bits were just snippets of conversations and so on.
That didn't deny its visceral power -- made more so given his recently troubled life -- but this revision/reconsideration and expansion by young British remixer Jamie XX pushes into different territory again.
Here Scott-Heron's dark tones sometimes sound as stentorian as an Old Testament prophet, at others like a man who sounds ineffably alone in this brutal world, a man who knows there are no answers.
The idea of Scott-Heron being "new here" on the previous album played into an innocence about the much-changed world in which he found himself, this time out it is the contextualisation within these often hard-edged sonic settings (the elelctrostatic beats on The Crutch) which adds to the disconcerting sound of his voice. A man once more new in this world.
Scott-Heron was more than just the declamatory guy of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (check Winter in America here) so it is when his voice becomes more musical (My Cloud) that this is at its warmest, and XX provides a slightly disconcerting soundbeds which enhance it beautifully.
This won't be for everyone and my taste still runs to his original albums, but for most of this Jamie XX's diverse setting and mixes will make a new audience sit up and listen -- and you can't turn away from New York is Killing Me which sounds like Scott-Heron is lost in a subway at 2am, as he doubtless was sometimes.