Talkin' Loud – 2001 – 78 minutes

4 hero's early dalliance with drum'n'bass should have guaranteed them the kind of acclaim afforded to the genre players Goldie and Roni Size. Far ahead of their contemporaries in the mid-late 1990s, Mark McClair and Dego McFarlaine eventually gravitated towards an earthy infusion of styles.

Their 'Two Pages' album wooed critics and garnered a MOBO award and Mercury Music Prize nomination. Shifting away from their drum'n'bass benchmark in favour of jazz-soaked breakbeats won them a broader audience who would not have been enamoured by their previous sound.

'Creating Patterns' continues along this musical path but further sidelines 4 Hero's junglist tendencies. An album as diverse as this runs the risk of being stuck with the dreary tab of World Music. However, such hollow labelling is a cop-out in defining this distillation of foreign flavours and global rhythms.

Updating the Jacob's Optical Stairway oeuvre, the undercarriage is the strong vocal contributions. 'Time' sees Ursula Rucker do her best Sarah Jones impersonation while 'Another Day' combines their trademark orchestral sweeps with the soulful, sultry tones of Jill Scott. Non-vocal 'Conceptions' is equally special, and an honorouble mention must go to 'Hold It Down' which tries its hand at funk, soul, 2 Step and R'n'B in one fell swoop.

For me, the most anticipated part of the album is actually the most disappointing. It's difficult to criticise such a stunning composition but the cover version of 'Les Fleur' is essentially a replica of the Rotary Connection classic. Given their usual brilliance at reworking other people's songs (Nuyorican Soul's 'Black Gold of the Sun', for starters) it's a serious case of production lazyitis. That aside, 'Creating Patterns' is 4 Hero at their best, churning up spiritual electronics with organic grooves. Masterful.

Sineád Gleeson

Tracklisting: Conceptions - Time (with Ursula Rucker) - Golden Solitude - Twothesme - Another Day (with Jill Scott) - Hold It Down - Unique (with Patricia Marxx) - Something Nothing - Ways Of Thought - Eight - Blank Cells - Twelve Tribes (with Mark Murphy) - 2 BS 74638 - Les Fleur - The Day Of The Greys (with Terry Callier)