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Steve Mason

+ {King Biscuit Time} + {Black Affair}

Born 25 July 1971, Edinburgh, Scotland, STEVE MASON was of course The BETA BAND’s guiding light when circulated their prog-styled trip-hop from 1996 to 2004. A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Steve (and his group) rose from cult stardom to Top 20 act almost overnight as their “Three EPs” became the talking point of every discerning indie kid; `Dry The Rain’ (from 1997’s “Champion Versions”) was subsequently name-dropped and featured in the excellent record-store-banter movie, High Fidelity.
Not content with shaking up the indie world with The BETA BAND, Steve moonlighted in his own one-man-band splinter act, KING BISCUIT TIME, delivering a couple of EPs, `“Sings” Belly Foggit’s Blues In “Me And The Pharaohs”’ and `No Style’, between late ’98 and mid-’00. Not particularly profound or champion versions, studio Steve noodled his way through eight pieces; only the latter EP’s hook-line, `I Walk The Earth’, coming close to his anthemic BB standards.
With The BETA BAND rested indefinitely (John Maclean and Robin Jones had reintegrating with former Pigeons/LONE PIGEON alumnus, Gordon Anderson, in The ALIENS), the pseudonymous KING BISCUIT TIME was resurrected for a bit of BLACK GOLD (2006) {*6}. Issued on Alan McGee’s Poptones diversion, No Style Records, the album fused his playful BETA BAND efforts with star-crossed dub-reggae; `C I Am 15’ and `Kwangchow’ were attendant minor hits.
Techno alter-ego BLACK AFFAIR was Steve’s next port-of-call. A trance-like meld of NUMAN, DEPECHE, and dare one say it, the “Kling-Klang” of KRAFTWERK, PLEASURE PRESSURE POINT {*7} oozed retro-electro-pop in all its claustrophobic, synth-sonic flourishes. `Just Keep Walking’, `Tak! Attack!’, `It’s Real’ and `Japanese Happening’ were the stand-out prime cuts, although the exercise was hardly ground-breaking and progressive.
Duly finding the likeminded Brit-beat pop producer, Richard X, STEVE MASON thought it time to unleash his own moniker on the public via BOYS OUTSIDE (2010) {*7}. For a man who owed a great debt to the alternative/indie scene for giving him several successful years, but even bigger debts to the taxman, etc., MASON was understandably looking for a way to get himself out of shit creek, a second job on a building site and ensuing depression – peddling plucky pop might just have been be his saviour. Not totally devoid of his BETA BAND traits, one could pick out `Am I Just A Man’, `Lost & Found’ and the title track as the set’s highlights. One too, could give the following year’s GHOST OUTSIDE {*6} a spin, a dub companion piece that co-credited dub-reggae legend, DENNIS BOVELL.
MONKEY MINDS IN THE DEVIL’S TIME (2013) {*8} was MASON’s second proper attempt at getting the balance right. If a Top 40 place was success, his reward was gratefully accepted and due. Recorded in his home Scottish studio in Fife and mixed in London with co-producer Dan Carey, the near concept album pushed the envelope in his desire to tie-in every genre under the sun, while keeping an interpolating cohesion by letting rip a reading from Dante’s Inferno (Canto XVII), screeching seagulls and a Brazilian Formula One commentary; the latter an homage to Ayrton Senna by way of `The Last Of The Heroes’. Showcasing hip-hop-ster MC Mystro, the political, riot-baiting battle-cry of `More Money, More Fire’, kept the musically masked MASON a kettling away from controversy, while introspective dirges `Lonely’, `Seen It All Before’ and `Come To Me’, might please his old BETA BAND fanbase and keep the proverbial wolf from the door.
Less politically motivated, more building on his BETA BAND blocks of old, the maverick and “melanchoholic” MASON (plus producer Craig Potter from ELBOW), embraced esoteric excursions on 2016’s MEET THE HUMANS {*8}; an album worth listening to again and again. Back to the bulging beats of bygone Britpop a la `Water Bored’, `Alive!’, `Alright’ and scintillating star track `Planet Sizes’, the horns were re-introduced for `Another Day’ and strings for `Like Water’. Sultry neo-soul singer Katrina Train duets on `To A Door’, as Steve once again confronted life and death in his own non-conformist aplomb.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2013-Feb2016

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