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4hero began as a quartet on the fringes of UK hip-hop in the mid-80s, but quickly gravitated towards the hardcore scene that was coming up towards the end of the decade. A small revolution in music was quietly taking place in the fields of the Home Counties. Illegal rave scenes and pirate radio stations were popularizing tunes made in small DIY studios.
When rave finally caught the attention of the general public, its blend of acid-fried psychedelia and tight drum patterns that drew on both the swing of Latin and African percussion and the metronomic intensity of Detroit techno came as something of a shock. Mark ‘Marc Mac’ Clair, who splits 4hero’s production duties with Dennis ‘Dego’ McFarlane, remembers the shock of the new: “When DJ Hype incorporated house and UK hip-hop into his music and dropped Rising Son, nothing else sounded like that. It was a new fusion.”
4hero were among the first to embrace the change in dance music culture. Originally a breaks and techno act, the Dollis Hill production team began to meld the breakbeat structures of hip hop and reggae’s African diaspora with the rigid four-to-the-floor of a European production style still heavily influenced by Kraftwerk’s robotic beats.
Moving away from the bass-heavy bleepcore of their peers, 4hero were instrumental in rolling the spirit of the 1988 Summer of Love into the next decade with warehouse party favorites like the ‘Combat Dance’ EP and ‘Mr Kirk’s Nightmare’.
As the scene evolved with its audience’s taste in stimulant, 4hero turned away from the dance floor. Although still playing raves, the group moved into the studio, releasing the album ‘Parallel Universe’, in 1994.
Parallel Universe was considered by many to be the first album to showcase the full potential of drum 'n' bass music. Its themes included science-fiction television programs and science fact (with references to author Stephen Hawking). On this record, 4hero sound like kids raised on astrology and mysticism who one day stumbled upon jungle. Parallel Universe was the album that showed what jungle was capable of in the full-length medium.
While the U.K. charts were caught up in ragga jungle mania, Dego and Marc Mac wedded their unsurpassed, futuristic break beats. 4hero and the sound of Parallel Universe pre-figured electronica's obsession with "intelligent" jungle during 1995-1996.
The duo dip into R&B/house territory with a few vocals, which somewhat subverts the innovative feel of a drum 'n' bass classic. It's no small wonder how natural their craft seems to come to them. Placed sonically between their early hardcore 12" single "Mr. Kirk's Nightmare", and their later fusion bombs "Play With The Changes", Parallel Universe seamlessly blends toughness and loveliness for an equally head-nodding and soul-searching musical trip.
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