4hero is an English drum'n'bass band, that go all the way back to the start of d'n'b. Preceding even Goldie with the album "In Rough Territory" (1991), 4 hero is well established in the d'n'b scene. However, they haven't been very commercially successful. With the release of their new album "Creating Patterns" (2001), the single "Les Fleurs" has been moderately successful with some MTV airtime. More important than MTV, they got some good reviews and gained respect in the established music scene.

The masterminds behind 4hero are both English, Mark May (Manix) and Dego MacFarlane (Tek 9). They sometimes operate under other bandnames such as "Jacobs Optical Stairway", "Tom & Jerry", "Nu-Era" and "Cold Mission".

Get an idea of the flavour of this write up by reading the bold sections. This is an experiment since I personally often don't feel like embarking on reading something properly while just browsing. /msg me to tell me what you think.


From
'Bust another sample'
- Cookin' Up Yah Brain

to

'Inside every man
Lives the seed of a flower
If he looks within he finds beauty and power'
- Les Fleur

4 Hero have been producing cutting edge drum and bass music for over ten years. Despite losing out in the fame stakes to the likes of Roni Size and Goldie 4 hero are widely regarded as the fathers of drum and bass and their innovative music continues to cover new ground.

Otherwise known as Dego McFarlane and Mark Clair (Mac) first got together in London in 1986 whilst DJing for pirate radio. However 4 Hero were originally a quartet, as the name implies. Along with Iain Bardouille and Gus Lawrence they formed Reinforced Records, one of the premier jungle and drum and bass labels. However Dego and Mac moved towards recording while Bardouille and Lawrence managed the newly founded Reinforced Records.

Mac and Dego both originally came from hip hop roots and Dego returned to them later with his Tek 9 project. While the hip hop influence is clear in their music, particularly in later records, the duo moved away from their roots annoyed at having to follow the distant American scene and with the lack of recognition for British artists.

Mac and Dego released the first 4 Hero record, the Rising Sun EP, in 1989 under the Reinforced label. Their next EP, Mr Kirk's Nightmare, was a hit with the dance community selling over 24,000 copies and established 4 Hero's reputation as an emerging act. Despite a shady distributor reneging on the profits the duo travelled the UK DJing at raves trying to earn enough money to keep Reinforced afloat. It was while they were touring that Goldie heard them and approached them hoping to work for Reinforced. They welcomed him with open arms and he started work as an A&R man and engineer for the label. It was during his time here that Goldie learnt his trade from Dego and Mac.

In 1991 4 Hero released their debut LP, In Rough Territory. The album was essentially a collection of EPs that the duo had released but it had a dark and sinister feel to it unusual on the currently euphoric rave scene. The track titles themselves display some of this elegiac nature with 'May the Wicked Perish in the Fire of Hell' and 'Mr Kirk's Nightmare'. The album is now widely regarded as years ahead of its time showcasing the type of beats that would become the centre of jungle, breakbeat and drum and bass.

Not the sort to rest of their laurels the duo branched off with Dego returning to his hip hop roots with Tek 9 and Mac moving forward into hard techno with Nu Era. Over the next couple of years the pair, in the guises of Tek 9 and Manix, worked on compilation albums for Reinforced along with Goldie's Rufige Cru.

In 1994 the world was able to experience 4 Hero again with the release of the second LP, Parallel Universe. The album moved away from the hardcore of In Rough Territory and yet again showed that they were leaps and bounds ahead of the rest on the evolutionary ladder of drum & bass. By now the rest of the genre were just catching up with 4 Hero's previous release and the significance of the sound they had obtained was becoming clear.

Following the critical acclaim that Parallel Universe received the duo again branched out, Dego yet again recording as Tek 9 and Mac moving towards production for other Reinforced artists. They teamed up again to record under the name Jacob's Optical Stairway to release a self titled LP in 1996 with R&S records. This hinted towards what was to come with the revolutionary Two Pages.

In 1998 came Two Pages and with it came a musical revolution. The acid jazz styling combined with the infectious bass lines and breakbeats was something never seen before. The rhythmical poetry from Ursula Rucker on a few of the tracks embodied this astonishing new direction. A double CD, the album was clearly two pages. The first representing the new jazz stylings of 4 Hero and the second featured the more traditional drum and bass/jungle beats on display in Parallel Universe. Two Pages - Reinterpretations, a remix album contained mixes from the likes of Jazzanova and Masters at Work, yet again emphasised their new direction (one which Jazzanova had approached from the jazz as opposed to drum & bass side) as well as a nod towards their hip hop roots. The eclectic nature of Two Pages brought drum and bass to a new audience with its smooth beats and syncopated rhythms.

After another spell away producing 4 Hero have returned with their latest offering, Creating Patterns. The first single from it, a reworking of Minnie Riperton's Les Fleur, has received a lot of air play here in the UK and looks like it'll be a big chart hit. It is looking like the album will receive similar coverage and so the pair may really hit it big over the next year. The big question is, 'Does the album live up to what we've come to expect from such an innovative duo?' Unfortunately the answer is no.

Sorry Dego, sorry Mac, I was already to go around boasting about how I'd heard of you before your chart success and how I always knew you would reach the top but now I'm wandering around pretending not to have heard of you or claiming along with thousands of other dissapointed fans

Their earlier stuff is much, MUCH better!


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Discography

In Rough Territory

1991, Reinforced Records

Mr Kirk your son is dead, he died of an overdose. - Mr Kirk's Nightmare
  1. Genesis
  2. No Sleep River (Tired Eyes Mix)
  3. Mr Kirk's Nightmare (Live Mix)
  4. Reachin
  5. Can't Strain My Brain
  6. Put Your Thinkin' Caps On
  7. Cookin' Up Yah Brain
  8. May The Wicked Perish In The Fire Of Hell
  9. The Last Ever Bleep Track
  10. Risin' Sun (Instrumental)
  11. Mad Dogs (Feeding Propaganda)
  12. Massacre
A raw album which fuses energetic rave atmospheres with the emerging complexities of breakbeat drum'n'bass. - John Bush, AMG
Starting with a Genesis and ending in a Massacre this LPs sinister sounds hit the dance world with a new sound upon its release in 1991. Much like the Prodigy's Experience was the first full length record from a rave act 4 Hero's first LP was has a similar stigma attached to it in relation to drum and bass. While 4 Hero didn't hit the mark every time, Can't Strain My Brain sounds like an uninspired rave track, this album represented a revolution in the direction of British dance music. Tracks like Cookin' Up Yah Brain and, in particular, Mr Kirk's Nightmare are seen as being the first records to demonstrate well the sped up beats that became jungle and drum and bass.

Parallel Universe

1994, Reinforced Records

We all accept that it's quite tragic to have to go and terraform Mars when we could stay here and try to terraform Earth. - Terraforming (4:44)
  1. Universal Love
  2. No Imitation
  3. Parallel Universe
  4. Talk Around Town
  5. Follow Your Heart (Pt. 1)
  6. Wrinkles in Time
  7. Terraforming
  8. People Always Criticize Us
  9. Follow Your Heart (Pt. 2)
  10. Shadow Run
  11. Sunspots
  12. Sounds From The Black Hole
  13. Power To Move The Stars
  14. Solar Emissions
While the U.K. charts were caught up in ragga jungle mania, Dego and Mark Mac wedded their unsurpassed, futuristic breakbeats - John Bush, AMG
By the release of this, 4 Hero's second LP, the duo had really perfected their sound. Hitting the mark with pretty much every track Parallel Universe took the feel of what had been to come with In Rough Territory and gave the world drum and bass. Not only does the album build on what had come before with tracks like People Always Criticize Us but it glances towards what was to come. With the jazzy syncopation and smooth vocals of Universal Love the foundations for Two Pages were already laid.

Jacob's Optical Stairway

Released as Jacob's Optical Stairway

1996, R&S Records

  1. Fragments of a Lost Language
  2. The Naphosisous Wars
  3. The Chase the Escape
  4. The Fusion Formula (The Metamorphosis)
  5. Majestic 12
  6. Solar Feelings
  7. Jacob's Optical Illusion
  8. Harsh Realitys
  9. The Engulfing Whirlpool
  10. Quatrain 72 (Red Horizon)
  11. 20 Degrees of Taurus
An album of understated breakbeats with high strings and synthwork - John Bush, AMG
Working with Juan Atkins and Josh Wink at Belgium label R&S Records on this release under a the name Jacob's Optical Stairway Dego and Mac produced antoher outstanding record. In style and tone it is similar in many ways to Parallel Universe. It is almost a second disk to their previous LP but the involvement of Atkins and Wink gave it some extra polish and style.

Two Pages

1998, Polygram Records

But the world will teach you hate - Golden Age of Life
  1. Loveless
  2. Golden age of life
  3. Planeteria
  4. 3rd Stream
  5. Escape that
  6. Cosmic tree
  7. Spirits in transit
  8. Action
  9. Star chasers
  10. Wishful thinking
  11. We are not as others
  12. Humans
  13. In the shadow
  14. Mathematical probability
  15. Greys
  16. Pegasus 51
  17. Heiroglyphic Title given on net as "3005"
  18. Worm holes
  19. Dauntless
Thanks to ascorbic for this alternative tracklisting that he has encoutered:
  1. Loveless
  2. Golden age of life
  3. Planetaria
  4. Third stream
  5. Wormholes
  6. Escape that
  7. Mother Solar
  8. Spirits in Transit
  9. Greys
  10. The Action
  11. Star Chasers
  12. Wishful Thinking
  13. Normal Changing World
  14. Universal Reprise
  15. We Who Are Not As Others
  16. Humans
  17. Pegasus 51
  18. [Hyroglyphic Title given on net as "3005"
  19. De-Sci-Fer
This is as essential as an album can be. - Kingsley Marshall, Amazon Reviewer
Two Pages charted a new direction for 4 Hero. They moved away from the jungle and hard drum and bass of Parallel Universe to a new jazz sound. The bass now took the form of syncopated lines mostly underlying a guitar or saxaphone melody. There is also a great deal more vocal work on Two Pages. Mostly soothing female vocals of tracks like Golden Age of Life and Wishful Thinking. One of the most interesting tracks feature Ursula Rucker with her unique spoken/sung vocals with a poetic rhythm that beats Jill Scott's. An album well worth delving into for any music lover, very accesible and a great relaxing listen.

Two Pages - Reinterpretations

1999, Talkin' Loud Records

  1. Planetaria
  2. We Who Are Not as Others (Jazzanova Remix)
  3. Mathematical Probability (Mustang Remix)
  4. Escape That (New Sector Movements Selekshan 2 Sector Rub Remix)
  5. Escape That (Ron's Choice Remix)
  6. Dauntless (Restless Soul South Pacific Remix)
  7. Star Chasers (Masters at Work Main Mix)
  8. Star Chasers (Azymuth Remix)
  9. Action (Shawn J Period Remix)
  10. We Who Are Not as Others (Alpha Omega Remix)
  11. We Who Are Not as Others (Sonar Circle Remix)

Creating Patterns

2001, Mercury Records (Vinyl on Talkin' Loud Records)

I don't want to go to work today, I'd rather stay home and play - Another Day
  1. Conceptions
  2. Time
  3. Golden Solitude
  4. Twothesme
  5. Another Day
  6. Hold It Down
  7. Unique
  8. Something Nothing
  9. Ways Of Thought
  10. Eight
  11. Blank Cells
  12. Twelve Tribes
  13. 2-BS-74638
  14. Les Fleur
  15. The Day Of The Greys
This album will suffice for any occasion. Get it now. - DJ Magazine
Undoubtedly a future award nominee, 'Creating Patterns' shapes up like an international winner. - HMV.co.uk
The title says it all... Creating Patterns is noodle jazz for head-nodders....Even the presence of Jill Scott on "Another Day" can't raise the song-writing level above bland. - Jake Barnes, Amazon Reviewer

Many drum and bass fans and critics accused 4 Hero of selling out and going commercial with Two Pages but I think (as do others) that there was sufficient quality amongst the new style jazz influenced tracks to make their new direction genuine. However in Creating Patterns there can be doubt as to whether they have lost their direction. Whether it is corporate whoring or simply a misguided forray to far into electronic R&B and jazz. Whatever it is the tracks have nothing of the improvisation and innovation that has been 4 Hero's trade mark since their founding over ten years ago. Golden Solitude and Twothesme are nothing tracks, they are boring uninspired electronica. Even when you actually come across a track that starts OK, (Another Day) it sounds like a poor imitation of the earthy jazz of Two Pages. The track has Jill Scott on for heaven's sake and they still manage to take one of the most exciting stars of R&B today and turn her stunning vocal skills into a track of less interest than the entire Bob the Builder album.

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