Album Review

Gil Scott-Heron, 'I'm New Here'

February 8, 2010

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The first album in 16 years from troubled genius Gil Scott-Heron is dark and eerie, full of mysterious electronic effects, clanging percussions, and ominous chords. On the surface, it’s nothing like Scott-Heron’s classic work from the 1970s and ’80s, which cloaked searing messages of social liberation in some of the funkiest soul-jazz ever made, with musical partner Brian Jackson and a tight acoustic band. “I’m New Here’’ is a different beast. The idea of indie maven Richard Russell of XL Recordings, who suggested it while visiting Scott-Heron during a recent incarceration, the album is very much a producer’s piece, all layers, overdubs, and effects. Yet the swirling miasma of sound wholly suits Scott-Heron’s mood, which is angry yet humble, and even more his voice, which is rich and intent as ever. The disc is succinct, just 30 minutes, with ruminative spoken interludes framing the title track (an unlikely cover of lo-fi rocker Smog), a wrenching version of Bobby Bland’s “I’ll Take Care of You,’’ and a jagged, tweaky take on “Me and the Devil’’ that rings like a masterclass in Afro-futuristic blues. (Out tomorrow) SIDDHARTHA MITTER

Gil Scott-Heron I'm New Here
XL Recordings
strong> ESSENTIAL “Me and the Devil’’