Sianspheric

RGB

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

As a commemoration of the Canadian band's sometimes sporadic existence over ten years, Sianspheric released RGB in 2005, a combination DVD and CD package that serves as a combination memento, career overview and collection of obscurities that together help make possibly the strongest case yet for the band's often underrated talents. While the group's four main albums and split EP with Toshack Highway all are worthwhile, the combination of audio and visual evidence on RGB -- especially thanks to the few but often striking videos they made or worked with filmmakers on over the years -- gives both band and its work a wonderful showcase.

For this reason, the key disc is the DVD, which covers a wide variety of ground. The core presentation is a short documentary, RGB 10, which draws on a variety of band-filmed videos from shows, trips between them, recording sessions and interviews, presented without narration but with occasional explanatory notes. (In a wry but harrowing moment, a brief one-frame-only message sums up the late '90s as not worth revisiting due to the bad feelings and drug use and abuse affecting the group at that point.) Seeing the earliest footage from 1994 and 1995 in particular is a bit shocking, if only to realize how far back in history the fashions and hairstyles have already become, but it's also instructive to see how Sianspheric successfully became one of the first North American bands to carve its own way with shoegazing inspirations (as well as earlier post-punk forebears).

Perhaps even more enjoyable are the videos and short films on offer, some of which are extremely fine pieces of work that could easily stand on their own away from any particular band context, with the band and its music playing core but often not central roles. "There's Always Someplace You'd Rather Be" is a good example, starting with an extended amount of footage featuring a passenger train's journey across Canadian woodlands mixed with brief interview or commentary snippets before the song itself starts to feature, with the counterpart being a series of almost dreamlike images of more woodlands to match the song's extended coda. The quarter-hour long "Somnium," directed by John Walsh, is perhaps the best, portraying a young boy in the '60s inspired by the news of the space program to the indifference or mockery of his parents and peers -- the moment when he enters his dream to face an astronaut figure is when the band fully and very dramatically kicks in on the soundtrack with "I Like the Ride," and the subsequent intercutting of his dream world and the band's performance is a beautiful piece of work, very much of its mid-'90s era (especially in the lighting) but no less powerful for it. The rural setting and grey skies featured in "Nothing Stands" similarly match the understated dreaminess of the song well, while the clever "Last Day on Earth" is able to mix simply presented but effective science fiction with pathos and humor that the band's mostly understated soundtrack suits perfectly. Band and director commentary for "Somnium" and "Nothing Stands" are enjoyable enough extras, as are 5.1 surround sound mixes of some of the other videos and films as well as three more numbers featured as audio tracks only.

The CD, in contrast, is more of a straightforward career review, though interestingly one album, Else, has no selections featured, while The Sound of the Colour of the Sun has nearly half its cuts appear. It's still a very good taster for those wanting to get a sense of the band's work, while the inclusion of five rare tracks adds further incentive for hardcore fans. Too, an extremely rough "Rave On, Full On" and the more restrained "Swansea City," are demos for versions that later were officially released, while two others, the liquid, elegantly spaced-out jam "Like Glass" and a remix of "QFQ," were previously unreleased. Meanwhile, the final track had only previously appeared on a compilation -- "D'Yer Wanna Be P. Kember?," an appropriately droned and zoned tribute to the legendary figure from Spacemen 3 more widely known as Sonic Boom. Add to everything else a series of sharp, funny notes and claims on the packaging and in the DVD program (along with a fine, straightforward appreciation by Ben Rayner), and the result is an enjoyable release that would satisfy fans and newcomers both.

blue highlight denotes track pick