The Beta Band

Heroes to Zeros (Regal/Astralwerks)

Have you seen The Wicker Man and 2001: A Space Odyssey? Judging from the Beta Band's music, the Scottish quartet surely has absorbed those cult films' respective pagan-folk and space-trippingly futuristic influences into its sound. The Beta Band's third album proper (self-produced, but mixed by Nigel Godrich) is its most consistently brilliant work since The 3 E.P.'s collection in 1998.

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The band has lost some of its just-woke-up-in-the-studio nonchalance, but it still deploys enough quirky percussion, peculiar strings, churchy organ drones and clapping hands to conjure a 21st-century version of Their Satanic Majesties Request. Heroes to Zeros contains some of the Beta Band's most urgently rocking songs, but it's also baroquely psychedelic, without dipping into paisley-infused kitsch. A huge part of the disc's charm is the way Stephen Mason uses his reverbed, green-eyed-soul voice to make banal mantras like "She's so wonderful" sound like stoned profundity.

 
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