Monday, February 24, 2014

I’d Love To Turn You On 100th Episode - Sun Dial - Other Way Out

Oozing into the aural field like high tide imperceptibly covering land, the first song “Plains of Nazca” off Sun Dial’s debut masterpiece Other Way Out leaks paisley gauze from your speakers and crawls up your leg, covering you in the strange yet familiar warmth of genuine psychedelia. This obscurity was first released in 1990 as an import-only limited edition on the excellent Tangerine label. It is hard to know if anyone who didn’t work in a record store even knew about it. I saw it on one of my weekly import sales solicitations described as “indescribably heavy psych.” I liked that idea and I loved the name of the band. I don’t know why but it conjured up all sorts of good associations. As the British say, I was gob-smacked the first time I played Other Way Out. With modern technology and a doctorate level understanding of what made 60’s music great, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Gary Ramon carves a brilliant post-script to that decade of music which adds to the legacy, honors it and in some ways betters much of it.

Ramon is clearly in thrall of early Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Love, The Beatles and the hundreds of curios (July, Arzachel, etc.) who populated the bottom of the British charts in the 60’s but he is also an accomplished songwriter and arranger in his own right. In addition the contemporary Manchester scene growing up around the Stone Roses sound at the time is clearly also an influence. The result of these factors is an album that sounds classic and new at the same time, and one that defies age because 24 years later it still sounds classic and new. This is no easy trick. It is because Ramon executes each discipline (writing, performing, producing) with such finesse and maturity that the result is timeless.

Every song is a monolithic slab of psych confection allowing Ramon ample room for his masterful guitar soloing. He pulls out all the stops on every solo, never letting up. It’s hard to not compare it to Hendrix, who was the same way: just immediately identifiable and always going for the jugular. Ramon has perfectly sympathetic partners in Anthony Clough, whose melodic bass lines and sheets of heavenly organ strike the perfect balance to Ramon’s ballsy guitar and fuzzy vocals, and drummer Dave Morgan whose Nick Mason inspired drum fills propel things forward constantly. And that is ultimately one of the best things about Other Way Out; it is an exciting sonic blast from start to finish. Ramon lavished great care into every track - whether it’s the upside down and backward guitar solos on the beautiful “Poster Painted Skies,” the start/stop surprise of “Lorne Blues,” the Beatles-ish exuberance of “Exploding In Your Mind” or the MC5-like post punk of the soaring instrumental “Slow Motion,” each song is a thrilling trip through the past and straight into the heart of the now.

I feel it is safe to assume you probably have not heard or even heard of Sun Dial before this, so it is safe to say that Other Way Out perfectly represents what we hoped to accomplish with this I’d Love To Turn You On column. Working in a record store, we spend our days being exposed to more music than the average person would ever be able to take in. It’s more than any human can take in, but it means that you do get exposed to things that are way below the surface of the mainstream, and some of these things truly deserve to have a larger audience. Through the vagaries of the music business, the fickle nature of public taste or just “the breaks,” things get lost to history and popular attention. Our antidote to this is I’d Love To Turn You On. Hopefully over the last number of years this column has done just that and turned you on to or reminded you of some great albums. To me Other Way Out is the perfect candidate for this column because it is probably unfamiliar to most listeners, it is probably something you will be glad you know about once you hear it and it appears as a deluxe reissue on the extreme-metal label Relapse, so it is possible most stores wouldn’t know about it, or categorize it correctly - or even bother to order it. It is one of the true high points of 90’s indie rock, an indispensable continuation of the 1960’s psych legacy and a damn fine rock and roll album, and you know what…?

I’d Love To Turn You On

- Paul Epstein

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