As lead singer for The Beta Band, Steve Mason brought a solemn, bespectacled presence to psychedelic-tinged lunatic baggy-pop--a formula that proved frequently fascinating, if never quite destined for mainstream appeal. Here, Mason reverts to his solo pseudonym--named after a classic US blues radio program as well, one suspects, as a doff of the cap to dub pioneers King Tubby and King Sunny Ade--for a debut album steeped in Jamaican bass culture, anti-Bush/Blair polemic, and mournful psychedelic folk.
"CIAM15" bumps along on an insistent dancehall riddim decorated with wisps of acoustic guitar, bashment MC Topcat declaring "Its a worldwide war/ Its a foreign affair" over drumming-on-bins percussion. For all Masons enthusiastic dalliances with dance music, however, its indisputable his skill comes in crafting moments of startlingly beautiful melancholia: see "Impossible Ride", layered vocals and lone, echo-treated melodica summoning up a ambience thats positively Zen-like in its hushed simplicity. Mason once sung about "going totally round the bend" on the Betas debut album, Black Gold suggests hes learnt to ride that curve. --Louis Pattison