Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Sun Dial - Other Way Out

Sun Dial
Other Way Out

Released 1990 on UFO
Reviewed by Moon Cat, 11/12/2002ce

What a truly liberating thing it must be to make a record completely in the belief that it is highly unlikely to be pressed up, let alone even released. No audience to cater for, no music press to impress - just a like a hobby that's got a bit out of hand. DIYFY (or do it yourself, for yourself - an as yet unjumped on sub genre of popular music)
Such is the debut album by Sun Dial. Sun Dial made their (slight) mark in the early 90's when all that was indie either came from up North, was a bit funky and baggy and dealt E's on the side, or was from the home counties and inspired by My Bloody Valentine did shimmery guitar shoegazingness as footwear became the focus of the coyly fringed. Sun Dial's album is joyfully made for them and it shows.

Sun Dial's album is called Other Way Out and indeed, in the context of the times, it is another way. Not since the heady days of psychedelia and prog in the 60's/70's were you likely to open a gatefold (!) sleeve with what looked very like a Hawkwind style gig backdrop and find in the credits "Bamboo flutes / Vox continental organ / Turkish Talking Drum / Tibetan Bells..." This was, lest we forget 1990.
Just from those details alone its pretty clear we aint in Chapterhouse country.

Other Way Out is a proper, timeless, vaguley hippyish, psychedelic record. The group themselves were the changeling child of guitarist-vocalist Gary Ramon and the extended, jam like nature of the songs are driven mostly by his searing wah wah lead runs.
There are 6 songs in total (though later versions may have extra tracks - going on the vinyl here) and the overwhelming feeling from them is a kind brilliant naivety to them all. Do what we want. No expectations; lets put an organ solo in here, why not a bamboo flute solo? The lyrical concerns are a pantheon of psychedelic cliches and images. Expanded minds, light, sight, colours. We have "Galatic thoughts", "Tangerine seabreezes", "Echoing Mirrors" and you name it, if its a bit trippy its here. But this is not a criticism. Far from it. This just adds to the joy of the whole thing. This is about as far away from cynical music making as you can get. And the more you remind yourself it was made in 1990 the more fun you have.

Other Way Out opens with "Plains of Nazca", and it does the glam descend in full on epic trippy style. Gary Ramons vocals are more of the kind that are to be blended in rather than a 'lead' vocalist. Sometimes you feel that he's thinking 'Oh get the verse out the way so I can solar surf on the guitar'. As throughout the album, liquid wah solos stream through the song. "Plains of Nazca" bascially sez "This is how its gonna go.....get off now if you don't wanna stick around for the ride" The next two tracks continue the feeling that your warp engine is getting juiced up. "Exploding in your Mind" continues in epic theme...with a wonderfully meandering organ solo taking the wheel for a while. Meandering in a good way...where we going?....I dunno.....fun getting there though.

"Magic Flight" is lighter in tone but again the exploratory feel...the doing it and be damned sense of liberation is all apparent.
Side two kicks off with "She's Looking All Around" and the opening guitar motif is reminiscent of a kind of Wishbone Ashy 70's folk rock delivery before the Sun Dial layers come looping in. The track has a gorgeous psystream -out of flute and guitar - total heady candy indulgence. "World Without Time" has a nice foundation of acoustic folkesque riffery with bells and percussion adding lovely texture and colour. Decoration makes the song grow beyond its simple riff, but this is not a distracting polish, more a complement of sounds and ideas.
The album ends with "Lorne Blues", a simple blues inflected acid-heavy phased slooooow riff , a gelatinous comedown from the rest of the voyagin'.

In a way that recalls early Hawkwind, the actual foundations of the tunes are simple, but the warmth of intent and freedom of vision elevates each simple gesture to something beyond song structure. This album is indulgent but not in the occasionally bloated/lard arse excesses of an earlier era; this is lean psychedelia, a budget restricted but multi-hued treatment of Sun Dial's imagination. No excess born of arena tours and stretch limos - but a simle and innocent desire to explore.
A great great lost album

Sun Dial kind of got co-opted by the shoegazer movement and this reflected in some of their later work. Indeed Gary Ramon has said he feels after their debut they may have 'lost their way' They made 4 albums in total and though each is with its merits. Indeed the other albums are worthy of Unsung treatments in their own right
Other Way Out is the one for me though that retains the pure of joy of making music without preconceptions. No funds, no fads, just far out.

Reviews Index