Dennis "Dego" McFarlane can be considered the Sun Ra of post-acid-house British music. Best known as half of drum 'n' bass innovators 4 Hero with Mark "Mac" Clair, Dego has spearheaded myriad recording projects and record labels whose overriding theme has been an unquenchable quest for new sonic expressions. From jungle to future soul to broken beat, Dego's put a futuristic stamp on the '90s/'00s scene.
4 Hero established their rep among hardcore beatheads with 1990's "Mr. Kirk's Nightmare" and "Journey from the Light" on their own Reinforced Records. These cuts cast morbid shadows over the UK's euphoric rave circuit and portended jungle's mid-'90s infatuation with darker atmospheres and emotions.
As the '90s progressed, so did 4 Hero. They refined their sound into sublime complexity on 1995's Parallel Universe, producing perhaps the most cerebral drum 'n' bass album ever. Indeed, 4 Hero's dazzlingly intricate "Amen" breakbeat-chopping, stratospheric string swoops, suspenseful dynamics, and precise arrangements reveal master craftsmen more than simply rhythm technicians.
In 1995, 4 Hero side project Jacob's Optical Stairway released a self-titled album that was even more ethereal than Parallel Universe—breakbeat science fiction with little friction, a mercurial excursion into drum 'n' bass's most celestial realms. Another Dego guise, the downtempo-centric Tek 9, is not as rhythmically advanced as 4 Hero, but 1996's It's Not What You Think It Is!?!! exhibits his jazzy, melodic abilities within a more laid-back hiphop context.
To hear 4 Hero at their strangest, check "The Paranormal in 4 Form" off Macro Dub Infection Volume One. The piece evaporates into the Vangelis sphere, before exploding with an urgently descending bass line and mad, pitch-shifted snares. Things eventually calm down into a suave, ice-cool electro cruise. The track represents 4 Hero at their most unpredictable.
Also unpredictable is 1998's Two Pages. Here 4 Hero get all musicianly. Conventional soul vocals embroider orchestral broken-beat compositions and sprawling, jazzy fantasias that would please Return to Forever fans. Most of the duo's edge and futuristic thrust have been excised in favor of a kind of tasteful fusionoid display that aspires to coffee-table status. The musicianship here is excellent, but the maverick boldness of the earlier 4 Hero is absent, save for cuts like "Greys," "Pegasus 51," and "We Who Are Not as Others." Creating Patterns (2001) plunges 4 Hero deeper into fussy, string-laden future soul and astral broken-beat projections, and it contains a stunning cover of Minnie Riperton's immortal "Les Fleur."
For his Seattle debut, Dego is reportedly going to be DJing a party-friendly mix of broken beat, hiphop, drum 'n' bass, and house. One wishes he'd bust out a live set of his own idiosyncratic tracks, but Dego surely possesses deep, quality crates (or a jam-packed Serato), so don't sleep.
Dego plays with SunTzu Sound on Sat July 15 at Baltic Room, 1207 E Pine St, 625-4444, 9 pm–2 am, $7 before 11 pm, 21+.
FRIDAY JULY 14
UNITING SOULS' SIXTH ANNIVERSARY
Headed by Ramiro Gutierrez, Seattle house-music true believers Uniting Souls has organized over 400 shows in Seattle at numerous venues, bringing in marquee names, and fostering a robust local scene. As US celebrates its sixth anniversary, the crew's amping up its Uniting Souls Music label promotion. Tonight US salutes its third release: The Flammable EP by Not Boyfriend Material (AKA Mat Anderson). His three-track 12-inch solidifies Uniting Souls' rep for mesmerizing deep house cuts that know how to have fun. Expect future releases from Matt Corwine, Jacob London, and Jeromy Nail. With DJ Garth. More info: www.unitingsouls.com. Trinity, 111 Yesler Way, 447-4140, time, free before 10 pm/$10 after, 21+.
French restaurant Le Pichet celebrates Bastille Day with a set by DJ Cheeba. A protégé of the Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys, Beck, etc.), Cheeba honed his studio chops in L.A. under the Dusty ones' funky tutelage and expressed what he learned there on his new album Exile in the Woods (Mackrosoft). The slick, fluid instrumental jams here reside in that juicy, bubble-butted zone between the porn-flick score and the blaxploitation-film soundtrack. Cheeba's DJ set will likely keep everyone on the good foot, the better to burn off Le Pichet's quality wine and cheese. With the Djangomatics. Le Pichet, 1933 First Ave, 256-1499, 6 pm–midnight, free, all ages.
TUESDAY JULY 18
England's Doc Scott will always be a badass for his sizzling remix of Miles Davis's ferocious avant-jazz cauldron "Rated X." Of course, Doc has accomplished much more than that; he helped to found essential labels Metalheadz with Goldie and Reinforced with 4 Hero (Doc now runs 31 Records). Beyond that, though, Scott's imaginative productions partially paved the way for the deluge of mid- to late-'90s darkside jungle, as he combined Photek's balletically nimble beat programming with marrow-chilling, Blade Runner–esque atmospheres. Tracks like "Drums '95," "Fabio's Ghost," "Machines," and "It's Yours" still sound compelling and fresh. It'll be interesting to see if this d&b pioneer still has the Midas touch. With Zacharia. War Room, 722 E Pike St, 328-7666, 9 pm–2 am, 21+.