A new record by Steve Mason is always worth a listen so I’ll be watching out for his new LP ‘Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time’ which is released on March 18th. The title refers to a Buddhist term for an easily distracted brain & Mason has had side projects & other things on his mind which have prevented his music being more widely known. There is a single released on the same day & “Oh My Lord” sounds pretty good to me.
In “High Fidelity” Rob Gordon (John Cusack) the king of his own record shop says “”I will now sell five copies of The Three E.P.’s by The Beta Band”. He plays their classic “Dry The Rain” & does that very thing. (Wh’appen to Iben Hjejle? She was lovely) The Beta Band made some of the best British music post-Britpop. The soft swerve and succinct logic of their studio jams left you humming tunes you had only heard a couple of times. Their trip-hop was never precious, the samples pulled from a broad range of sources. There is though self-deprecation & pronouncing that your first LP is “fucking awful”. It’s a fine line isn’t it.
Two more LPs followed, both filled with calm,cyclical melody and Steve Mason’s distinctive voice. Even when they were happy with the music things did not always go to plan. The first single from “Hot Shots II” (not part Deux !) had a video & was ready to go when “Daydream In Blue” by I Monster beat them to the use of the sample on which “Squares” was based. Calling their next record “Heroes To Zeros” perhaps indicated a degree of resignation that the beta Band were not going to make the breakthrough that many people expected.
The band finished in 2004 . Steve was left in debt & suffering with depression. He made some music as King Biscuit & Black Affair but I don’t hear a lot of electronica & it passed me by. I still listened to the Beta Band though, it has a soothing calming effect on a room. In the Summer of 2010 he released his first record under his own name. “Boys Outside” sounds like the Beta Band, the same crafted songs. It was co-produced with Richard X who began by making odd intriguing mash-ups before contributing to the wasteland of mid-2000s British pop. It worked, there’s more texture to the songs. Someone to say that something is finished I guess. “Lost & Found” , a cracker, has a video which features David Dixon from the TV “Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”. he used to live in Sheen just two doors down from my great friends Phil & Billie.
So, after a dub version of “Boys” with Dennis Bovell, there is a new record. Steve promises that the new songs have a righteous, undaunted anger. There are few dissenting, overtly political voices in music at the moment & it will be interesting to hear what he has to say & play. Steve Mason’s music should be in the mainstream but I’m just not sure how he will get this record to be widely heard. Screw it, I’ll be listening & making others do so too.