The Beta Band

Hot Shots II (Astralwerks)

Record Reviews

The Beta Band

Hot Shots II (Astralwerks)

Too many people have tried to slap the electronica/ambient label on the Beta Band, but their music is far more complicated than that. These Scots belong to the class of Brit-poppers (Gomez, Radiohead) who defy categorization, the foursome tweaking and toying with form in each progressive song on Hot Shots II. This merry band has dared dream of a more masculine Frazier Chorus, a more rockin' Portishead, and a genre-bending sound that incorporates nary a world beat. In the process, the Betas reveal themselves as skilled sonic architects, able to construct the smooth curves of an ambient jam ("Squares"), the peaks and spires of a thundering foray into drum 'n' bass (the ironically titled "Quiet"), and the outrageously jagged corners of sample-heavy trip-hop (the bonus track "Won"). Of course, the icing is vocalist Stephen Mason's calming, mellow-smooth timbre, which is unlike any other's and adds another unique layer to the Beta Band's already distinctive sound. This is an album to be approached as a whole piece; listeners searching for a standout single like "Dry the Rain" (from 1998's The Three EPs) will be disappointed, but will have only themselves to blame for trying to wrap these talented boys into a tidy one-song package.

***.5

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