Some years ago we went to the Green Man festival; we saw the best live band in the world, Flaming Lips, we saw Mumford and Sons and we even saw Gruff Rhys in wellies, but if you asked for one memory of the event it would be the solo set from Steve Mason, ex Beta Band and then promoting his solo album Boys Outside.
The only reason is that it was just really, really good; Mason himself stood and played, making occasional Eeyore-like jokes about the pointlessness of life.
Critics loved The Beta Band — in 2000 Q placed The Three EPs at number 74 in its list of the 100 greatest British albums ever, while Pitchfork ranked the album at 23 in its list of the top 100 albums of the 1990s.
The Three EPs is a collection of three limited-edition EPs released between 1997 and 1998 on Regal Records. There isn’t a duff track on here — or a duff second come to that — and if you don’t fall in love with the band around the 3:18 mark on opening song Dry The Rain, then quite frankly, my friend, there is something wrong with you. The song is good anyway but it hits a heavenly groove you wish would last longer than a minute.
The band doesn’t seem to be big into verses followed by choruses, but instead relies on hypnotic bass lines and Mason’s equally hypnotic voice, which sounds more like a man leading a karmic relaxation session than a lead singer.
While it’s all gentle, they experiment with rhythm so you get some weird beats and sounds, always underpinned by hypnotic bass. Seeing him live, Mason seemed a man with a pessimistic view on life (he suffers from severe depression, before medication and hypnotherapy gave him his life back) but the tunes are uplifting, and Mason isn’t afraid to drop in long instrumental sections, always with that bass.
There’s not much to say except that it’s fine, fine music.