Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Beta Band - The Patty Patty Sound

The Beta Band
The Patty Patty Sound

Released 1998 on Regal
Reviewed by dave clarkson, 30/07/2005ce


1 Inner Meet Me.
2 The House Song.
3 Monolith.
4 She's The One.

Every few years, a band comes along and manages to inject a much needed fix into the arm of rock and roll. After existing for a few years, these particular groups are nearly always absorbed into the mainstream and noted for adding another layer of innovation or fleck of inspiration along the way. One such band which managed to avoid getting sucked in too early were the Beta Band.

When it was a genuinely new idea for rock bands to mix dance, pop, electronic and classical music in what is now termed ‘post rock’, the Beta Band managed to achieve this when the world was listening to Oasis Quo and suchlike. Without sounding contrived, pretentious or musically inept, the Beta Band produced music which was very homegrown but experimental with a small e. A modern day British psychedelic band maybe but certainly one which was not concerned in the main with commercial success – sharing a similar path to the work of Andy Partridge and XTC.

Upon noticing that Head Heritage was devoid of any Beta Band reviews in Unsung (which is odd methinks), I thought I’d rectify the situation.

Formed in 1996 and disbanded following their final ‘Heroes to Zeros’ (2004), the Beta Band existed for most of their time with members Steve Mason (vocals, guitar), John MacLean (sampler, keyboards), Richard Greentree (bass) and Robin Jones (drums). An early edition of the band featured Gordon Anderson who went on to produce music under the 'Lone Pigeon' moniker. The band arrived to critical acclaim with the 'Champion Versions' EP in July 1997 featuring a more relaxed and folk inspired set of tunes such as ‘Dry The Rain’ and the beautiful ‘B and A’.

Often unfairly labelled as a stoner record, second EP release, 'The Patty Patty Sound' showed the band moving into more musically rich areas and producing a more expansive work from a wider palette of sounds and a broader realm of ideas.

‘Inner Meet Me’ starts off the disc with a chant and a sample which I think is the beginning of Marcus Belgrave’s ‘Space Odyssey’ and a rhythmic guitar pattern leading into the infectious groove which defines the band’s sound. The tribal drum pattern and acoustic guitars drive the track forward toward some nice backward rhythm stuff before reverb takes effect and turns the vocals inside out.

“Put it in yer pocket for a rainy day, sing a song and you know yr wrong now.
I don't know why I can't think of a line, line.
Yesterday I found a day, I know today I lost a day”

The sum total of lyrics for the hypnotic ‘The House Song’ amounts to the above three lines which weave in and out of each other. Again, the themes of rain and confusion feature heavily and emphasise the British psych influence. Their later released astounding track, ‘Dr Baker’ again displayed these qualities with a piano loop which sounded like raindrops.

‘The House Song’ has an incredibly impressive build up before a light techno beat and an African sounding rhythm kicks in, together with some sonic scratching. Suddenly out of nowhere a mock MC Solaar crap rap takes over proceedings (an experiment most bands wouldn’t take the risk) which works – all the while the drums building the rhythm along with some birdsong and scratching – not forgotting the odd Cabaret Voltaire like tape injection. This is an incredible track and sounds all the better for it’s delivery which is restrained, loose but competent.

‘Monolith’ starts out as an amazing, almost plunderphonic, series of musical passages which sounds very much in spirit to the soundtrack to the David Lynch film ‘The Grandmother’ with the strange electronic screeches and weird vocalising. Four minutes in and the semblance of a tune is appearing with the band building on the jam. An organ section opens up to a pattern of chants and the band eventually sounding at their most relaxed and sparse. During the eleventh minute, the song erupts into a truly frightening and captivating moment when what sounds like a dog loop takes over and finally merges into some light percussion. At 16 minutes long, ‘Monolith’ is truly a great trip but I wouldn’t recommend undertaking this journey in an altered state.

‘She’s The One’ takes the listener back down to earth with its folk tinged loops and guitars. A pinky and perky sounding speeded up vocal loop moves the track into a gorgeous bass driven jam with some groovy organ lines before ending on a lonely drummer.

The Beta Band managed to sound progressive without being 'prog', experimental but not exclusive and pan musical without sounding 'world'. They were also a great sounding pop band who wrote classics and were never a band to shy away from a great sample opportunity to throw their audience (the Black Hole sample on ‘It’s Not Too Beautiful’ from their 1st album being an example). For these reasons, they are to be applauded for integrity, not forgetting their good humour and playfulness as well.

For those not yet aquainted with the Beta Band, the Patty Patty Sound together with Champion Versions and their third EP ‘Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos’ have been available for a number of years now on the one CD ‘the 3 EPs’. This is an excellent collection and deserves more attention and a wider audience.

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