by Maya Singer
Beta Band could be a betta band. Although the Scottish psychedelic-folk quartet richly deserves its status as hotly tipped comer, listening to The Three EPs, Beta Bands first stateside release, you cant help but wish itd stop noodling around with the equipment so much, muscle under and write some songs, darn it. Of course, much of Beta Bands quirky, barefoot charm would be lost were it to do that, but a few of the tracks on The Three EPs are so meandering and open-ended that they test your patience the 15-minute opus "Monolith," for one outstanding example.
But there is a mother lode of potential evident on this collection, and for an album that is just a reissue of Beta Bands three debut EPs Champion Versions, The Patty Patty Sound and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos there is also an astonishing stylistic distinction and coherence. Beta Band updates its artful, lo-fi tapestry of acoustic guitar, tambourine, bongos, piano, horns and more: like spoons with the odd scratching or space-age sample, and its stoned beats are more Summer of Love 1989 than 1969.
When it all comes together, with Steve Masons withdrawn lead vocals, his bandmates backup chants and unusual harmonies, Beta Bands sound is beautifully blissed-out. (Needless to say, blissing oneself out prior to spinning The Three EPs cuts down on toe-tapping during the bands more bizarre meanderings).
There are some variations between the EPs, too. The songs on Champion Versions are by far the tautest, while The Patty Patty Sound is the most experimental; fittingly, the jazzy, most recent EP, Los Amigos, is the best, offering the standout tracks "Its Over" and "Needles in my Eyes" which suggests that, as Beta Band prepares its first full-length effort, its taken a long, wandering road in exactly the right direction. Maya Singer