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4 Hero
Two Pages
(Mercury/Talkin' Loud)

The last time I heard 4 Hero, they had ripped out a track called "Mr. Kirk" and I was grooving on it highly. Then I heard a track by them on the Macro Dub Infection compilation that also completely ripped me a new one. It was called "The Paranormal In 4 Form" and went through as many different changeups in it's 8 minute length. It was amazing. The next thing I knew, they were releasing a double CD worth of electronic tunes (that would be skimmed down to one upon its release stateside, kind of defeating the namesake) and I read quite a few good things about it.

After a year or so of stalling out, I finally got my hands on the nearly 100 minutes of tunes, and I must say that I'm quite dissapointed in nearly all of it. Instead of keeping up their experimental drum and bass ways and cracking out their frenetic beats, they've almost entirely dropped their old style and gone into drum and bass lite mode guided by a bunch of new-age rhetoric.

The set starts out with the mellow "Loveless" featuring vocals by Ursula Rucker. The backing music is something not unlike something that might come off the Roni-Size disc New Forms (except a lot fluffier) with it's upright bass sound, stringed instruments and light skittering beats. The trend continues on the second track when a harp comes into the mix and a gospel sounding choir comes in over it all. Finally, some more light beats kick in along with more vocals. The disc continues along in the same mode until the 8th track when it drops off into a light sounding hip-hop track with vocals by "Butterfly" (from the Digible Planets, I think). Anyway, the disc again goes back into form after that track and until the first disc closes out.

The second disc is shorter in length, but fortunately it experiments quite a bit more and actually comes out sounding more interesting than the first one. Instead of rolling into the smooth beats again, "We Who Are Not As Others" rips into some harder beats, as well as a different overall mood. It's a little more ominous, but it's a welcome break from the elevator-sounds of the first one. The 10-minute track roughs things up quite a bit before toning down into the more experimental "Humans." After a short monologue that talks about the statistics of us not being alone in the universe, the track stutters along with eerie sounds, never really picking up until the next track kicks things back into gear with some frenetic beats. Really besides one track, the second disc is nearly completely the opposite of the first and more of what I was used to hearing from the group. The beats are inventive and fresh and although it doesn't flow as smoothly as the first disc, at least there's some change-up from song to song.

Basically, the first disc sounds like sort of a mix between LTJ Bukem and Roni Size while the second disc is more like the 4 Hero of old. There's a definite theme of earth and its connection to the universe on the disc (including a lot of alien references), so get ready to hear at least some lyrics that make you cringe (unless you're really into that sort of thing). Also, there's a bit of neat interactive stuff on the second disc, but it's nothing mind-blowing. Ish.

Rating: 5