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Harmless, a U.K. label that has served lapsed crate-diggers well for several years now -- see their Mellow Mellow and Pulp Fusion series -- place the first volume of Life: Styles in the hands of 4hero. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that Dego and Marc Mac have pulled out a set of soul-funk-jazz obscurities that date primarily from the '70s. In fact, something like this has been a long time coming, given the duo's participation in Kiss FM London's R Solution program, not to mention the big fat debt their Creating Patterns owes to the same stylistic collisions of that particular era. This set consists of two discs; the first disc is a mix, and the second provides most of the tracks from the mix in unmixed form. The mixing is hardly invasive, to the point where it's barely perceptible -- though there's the occasional abrupt transition, it's very apparent that the focus is not on the wrists of the DJs but the songs. And the bulk of the songs are of the spacious, melodic variety, with ARPs and clavinets, and all other manner of keyboard-based instruments swarming and burbling in and out. Along with some relatively familiar faces -- Sly & the Family Stone's blissfully lax "You Caught Me Smiling," Syreeta's sweet "I Love Every Little Thing About You" -- there are some figures that only the hardest of hardcore soul-funk-jazz heads will recognize. Weldon Irvine's "I Love You" is a tender love song that's so simple (and yet so perfect) that it could've written itself. Ethel Beatty, one of Roy Ayers' early-'80s Uno Melodic projects, contributes "It's Your Love," which is all starbound keyboards and gently soaring vocals. Capped off fittingly by Ramsey Lewis' version of Charles Stepney's "Les Fleur," the set provides considerable insight into 4hero's inspirations while doubling as a sunny summer afternoon companion.

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