If, for instance, the mumbling-tumbleweeds ambiance of Beck's Mutations struck a chord, then saunter toward the Beta Band. Given their fondness for nonchalant guitar strumming and hearty sing-alongs, it'd be easy to peg the media-shy Scottish quartet as new-generation folkies on their first album, The Three E.P.'s (which collects the band's trio of vinyl mini-albums). But they're more than alternative buskers. Using a thrift shop's worth of sounds, from guitars and clip-hop beats to assorted blips and bird noises, the Betas are a roots band that know the value of a groove. The Three E.P.'s is like an amble down a twisted country lane, with moments of whimsy (''Dogs Got a Bone'') and mystery (their often muffled singing and elliptical lyrics).
Occasionally, their self-indulgent side prevails; ''Monolith,'' 15 minutes of wanky tape loops and sound effects, nearly derails the album. Thankfully, the music quickly corrects itself, back to the Moody Blues-on-ecstasy (oops, another comparison) chant ''Dr. Baker.'' You leave The Three E.P.'s bemused and refreshed and with the feeling that, as with Beck, you can't pin the Beta Band down. A-