Release Date: Feb 7, 2020
Record label: XL
The source material, 2010's I'm New Here, is a strange beast. Wildly divorced from the soul- jazz at the core of Scott-Heron's twentieth century output, producer and XL Records owner Richard Russell pairs Scott-Heron's blues poetry with minimal, post-industrial aesthetics. To be sure, the record holds a certain gravitas, but by and large it is a cold, inorganic weight -- spooky string samples and throbbing eurorack synths -- so far removed from the organic, supremely human musical underpinnings Gil Scott-Heron 's intimate words need.
Gil Scott-Heron's final album, 2010's I'm New Here, was a moving but unfinished statement from an important but overlooked artist. By the mid-'00s, the writer, poet, and singer had a long and storied career behind him, with more than a dozen albums of word-dense soul and R&B, two novels, and one phrase, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," taken from his song of the same name, that echoed through culture and became more famous than he would ever be. He was a crucial voice of protest who deeply influenced black music across genres--hip-hop especially--but he hadn't done much in a while.
It's astonishing to consider that nearly ten years after the death of poet, songwriter, novelist, and polemicist Gil Scott-Heron in 2011, much of his work is unavailable. Released in 2010, I'm New Here was Scott-Heron's first album in nearly 15 years. Actively produced by Richard Russell and released by his XL Recordings, the set sounded more like a collaboration, a heavily electronic step away from the jazz-inflected, Caribbean-tinged, funky R&B that Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson delivered in the '70s.
F or Makaya McCraven, sampling is a means of remembrance. The Chicago-based drummer and producer has spent recent years honing his studio style to incorporate samples of his own improvised live performances, overwritten and rerecorded. The result is a series of palimpsest records: In the Moment (2015), Where We Come From (2018) and Universal Beings (2018) - all exercises in using the studio as another means of improvisation, finding difference in the repetition of the same motifs.