The Beta Band 

Hot Shots II

Four brash lads from Scotland calling themselves The Beta Band have been refining their tradition of sonic alchemy since 1997. Spinning pop mythology on its pointy little head, The Beta Band's third LP, Hot Shots II, combines the textural surrealism of early prog-rock with neo-folk harmonies, all to the background of a lo-fi trip-hop beat. Imagine Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, if they'd sounded like they were having fun recording it, or any of Beck's clever twists on modern-day pop, but with a bit more sincerity and a little less irony. Irony, in fact, doesn't rear its horned little head once in the Beta Band's existential melting pot of acoustic funk. Every little nuance -- whether it's the ping of a triangle, or a knock on a door -- seems the perfect sound to make at just the right moment.

The eleven songs on Hot Shots II display a deft simplicity that translates into a certain aloofness, though not arrogance. A quick sleight-of-hand finds them mixing up cheeky synth-pop with shuddering crescendos of guitar tremolo, and minimalist disco beats caps it all off.

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