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4hero - Play With The Changes

4hero, Play With The Changes

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

4HERO are Marc Mac and Dego, two of the UK’s top producers, and their latest album Play With The Changes marks their first in six years.

Previously, they have attracted widespread critical acclaim, a Mercury Music Prize nomination, a MOBO award and widespread respect from the music fraternity. It’s little wonder, then, to find Play With Changes populated by numerous collaborators, including Carina Andersson and Grammy Award-winner Jody Whatley.

The album itself is a slick blend of futuristic soul that’s as much influenced by the underground techno scene as it is Chicago soul. There are some superb tracks as well, even if the overall impression flatters to deceive.

Opening salvo Morning Child sets an impossibly high standard that the remainder of the LP struggles to reach. With its sweeping strings and California soul backdrop, the track positively caresses your eardrums courtesy of Andersson’s angelic vocals. It’s a song to rival the majesty of Aim’s The Girl Who Fell Through The Ice (featuring Kate Rogers) and which effortlessly matches 4hero and Andersson’s previous collaboration, Les Fleur.

But the rest of proceedings struggle to attain such high standards again. Take My Time is a sultry soul number featuring Jack Davey, but it’s much more straightforward and nowhere near as thrilling.

Look Inside is a trip-hop and techno slice of chilled out dance music that’s easy on the ear without really being special, while Sink Or Swim is a dub-heavy concoction that does eventually sink in spite of the best efforts of Lady Alma.

The album does find its way again with Give In, another savvy blend of strings and soul delivered by Darien Brockington and Phonte of Little Brother, and later on Awakening is an intriguing blend of spoken lyrics (by Ursula Rucker) and soulful melody that has plenty to say about contemporary issues.

And Bed Of Roses provides a smart blend of drum ‘n’ bass-style soul that’s tailor-made to bring out the best in Watley’s Grammy-winning vocals. But nothing comes close to surpassing the quality of that blistering opening salvo and too many merely fade from the memory a little too quickly.

Fans of Mac and Dego will doubtless revel in their return, but for any newcomers this is a very mixed bag indeed. It’s slick and well-suited to providing background music for a Saturday night out in London’s trendy bar scene but ultimately, it only contains one or two flashes of genuine brilliance.

Download picks: Morning Child, Give In, Bed Of Roses

Track listing:

  1. Morning Child – With Carina Andersson
  2. Take My Time – With Jack Davey
  3. Look Inside – With Face
  4. Sink Or Swim – With Lady Alma
  5. Give In – With Darien Brockington & Phonte
  6. Play With The Changes – With Talita Long & Harry Mizell
  7. Something In The Way – With Bembe Segue & Kaidi Tatham
  8. Stoke Up The Fire – With Face
  9. Awakening – With Ursula Rucker
  10. Sophia
  11. Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You) – With Terry Devos
  12. Why Don’t You Talk
  13. Bed Of Roses – With Jody Watley
  14. Gonna Give It Up – With Lady Alma
  15. Dedication To The Horse