Regal – 2001 – 46 minutes

Formed around the nucleus of three Edinburgh mates (Stephen Mason, Robin Jones and John MacLean), bassist Richard Greentree was the final addition to this interesting quartet. Their previous work includes a compilation of eps in 1998 and 1999's eponymous debut which disappointed many critics. However, 'Hot Shots II' casually sidesteps the well-known confines of the 'difficult' second album. Instead it's a fabulous collage of lazy beats, spacey guitars and percussive flourishes.

That said the multi-layered harmonies and beat alliances are the bedrock of this album. 'Squares' treads the same path as Portishead on 'Glory Box' with their own orchestral backdrop, while they demonstrate their combined vocal guile on 'Al Sharp' and 'Quiet'. The gentle acoustic currents of 'Gone' are heightened by Steve Mason's gentle vocals. At times, Mason sounds like a diluted version of XTC's Andy Partridge, but that and alphabetical similarities aside, the Beta Band have honed a distinctive hybrid of sounds.

While they have achieved a unique viscosity to their sound, each song is unpredictable - an unexpected charm, an aural treat. This summer, they will open for leftfielders Radiohead on their mammoth US tour. Let's hope they retain their own unique merit and avoid the self-indulgence of the 'Kid A' kids.

Sinéad Gleeson

Tracklisting: Squares – All Sharp – Human Being – Gone – Dragon – Broke – Quiet – Alleged – Life - Eclipse