Hero album cover
Hero

Chris Bowden , 4hero

1998
Satellite

Saxophonist, composer and arranger Chris Bowden has had a circuitous - and sometimes troubled - route in music, from working on the fringes of the Acid Jazz scene and playing for Basement Jaxx, to writing his own sprawling symphony-like pieces that could veer from Weather Report to Mingus to Debussy in a few bars. But some of his very finest work was with 4Hero. His arrangements are part of what make their Two Pages album the monumental statement it is, the strings shimmering in the space between avant-garde and popular culture where Bernard Hermann and Charles Stepney meet. Stranger still is the single EP that he made as an equal collaboration with 4Hero in 1997: just two long tracks, “Hero” and “Lullaby” on vinyl with the extra five minutes of “Greedy” on a CD release. It has production and beat programming to match the most futurist experiments of the likes of Photek, yet sounds entirely “organic”. Its keening vocals have a sense of Radiohead at their most rarefied, and even foreshadow James Blake's work a decade plus later. Though Bowden’s strings and 4Hero’s rhythms are instantly recognisable, the alchemy between them creates something else again - three songs that all have a similar, almost unbearably sad and lovely, mood, but sound like nothing else before or since.

Joe Muggs

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