Sun Dial will need no introduction to many. Formed in 1990 by Gary Ramon, the band has explored many different aspects of psychedelic and space rock during its existence, and has often sprung a surprise or two, not least with its response to the release of its 20th anniversary retrospective (‘Processed For DNA’), an eponymously titled album that seemed to owe more to Seattle of the ’90s than California of the late ’60s or West Germany of the early ’70s; these circumstances perhaps suggesting a fresh start and new direction.
The follow up to this, ‘Mind Control’ released in 2012 (but now re-released in CD form by Sulatron Records with a couple of bonus tracks), was more of a return to the band’s psychedelic roots; with a few, rather big, caveats. While the elements of grunge were largely gone, opening track ‘Mountain of Fire Miracles’ points to a more psych-stoner laid back vibe giving the initial impression that this was going to be something more in that direction. This is a really lovely languid track that really helps the listener to totally zone out, the bass riff in particular is wonderfully soporific.
The album continues with it’s zoned out vibe which beautifully spacey tracks such as ‘Radiation’ and ‘Last Rays of the Sun’, the latter of which is especially worthy of mention with its composed (in both senses of the word) and phosphorescent melody which truly takes you away from the stresses and strains of the day, without ever letting you forget that there is a certain finality to life. Every dystopia should have a silver lining like this.
Sandwiched between these tracks is the title track, as great sprawling track set around a motorik beat; a number that builds inexorably towards a crescendo expanding and intensifying as it goes. Then, at the end of the 2012 original was the surprise, a somewhat unforgettable cover of Roxy Music’s (in my view) classic song ‘In Every Dreamhome A Heartache’, something that could be quite disastrous if done wrongly. Somehow, however, Sun Dial manages to carve a new identity out for it with the use of orchestration which I listened to alongside the Therapy? cover of ‘Diane’ to great success. Both these great covers really complemented each other in a very intense and impassioned manner.
The bonus tracks on the Sulatron disc complement the album very well, being from the same recording sessions as the original album. ‘Seven Pointed Star (Short Version)’ feels like a fragment of baroque rock excavated from the ruins of a once great residence, a track whose complexity you are only just getting used to when it is all too soon over. ‘World Within You’ is far more complete with some lovely searing guitar work and pastoral woodwind vibe that gives the album more closure than was the case with this original.
‘Mind Control’ is an album that is well worth revisiting, not least for the Roxy cover, but also for the beauty and variety of the original compositions which together provide a satisfying journey through a number of psychedelic genre and will leave you more mellow at the end that you were at the beginning.
‘Mind Control’ is available from Sulatron Records here.
Sun Dial on this album were:
Gary Ramon (guitar, vocals, mellotron, mini-moog, arp, hammond organ)
Scorpio (bass guitar, moog taurus 3 bass pedals
Conrad Farmer (drums)
Joolie Wood (violin, melodica, bass recorder)