SIANspheric’s debut, Somnium, remains a testament to their tenacious spirit and musical drive.
During the holidays, I took some much-needed me time and moseyed down memory lane watching the documentary Sonic Unyon: Now We Are 25. Why Sonic Unyon Records and the music scene they helped foster in Southern Ontario in the mid-Nineties doesn’t get its due has always puzzled me. With all due respect to Montreal and Toronto’s early aughts scenes, Canada has always been home to cutting edge and innovative music scenes, albeit ones separated by geography as much as sound and style (Look no further than Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider’s encyclopedic Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985–1995 for the definitive and ongoing story of how we’ve gotten to the point we’re at today).
Technology is a major factor, too, I suppose; the label and its seminal artists had their heyday before the advent of social media and online living. They made their names the old-fashion way: word-of-mouth, constant touring, and fostering face-to-face relationships with fans, record store owners, and fellow musicians. I’ve been looking longingly back to the Nineties lately, too. While I fully (and somewhat regrettably) admit that my musical attention at the time was focused squarely on the whole of the UK music scene of the day, you couldn’t be a music lover in Southern Ontario in the Nineties without hearing, seeing, and knowing about superstars of Sonic Unyon’s roster like label founders Tristan Psionic, Hayden, and space-rockers SIANspheric.
Of all the Sonic Unyon stable, SIANspheric’s shimmery wash of guitars and psychedelic extended jams fit best with my musical sensibilities at the time. Their debut full-length, Somnium, is a homegrown take on shoegaze and fits nicely alongside its contemporaries like the Verve’s A Storm In Heaven, Adorable’s Against Perfection, and Spiritualized’s Pure Phase. Sonic similarities aside, Somnium is something altogether different than what was washing up on North American shores from the UK. A product of their environment, SIANspheric embraced the DIY punk ethos of the Sonic Unyon family: first and foremost, they made music for themselves, not to fit into a scene or style. Elements of their former incarnation Gleet peak through Somnium’s shower of guitars and drone: there’s an edge to instrumental “Flow, Ebb, & Die” that hints at just how hardcore and loud the band could get, immediately balanced out by the crystalline shimmer of “The Stars Above.”
SIANspheric were (and still are, as they continue to perform and record) a dynamic band, to say the least, a testament to their own tenacious spirit and musical drive after Gleet lead singer Scott Kish was killed in a car accident in January 1994. In “I Like the Ride,” a song I’ve always interpreted as a tribute and ode to their lost friend, vocalist and guitarist Sean Ramsay sings about “feeling left behind,” wanting to laugh but then starting to cry, and being thankful to be alive. These unabashedly emotional and vulnerable lyrics suggest the same kind of sensitivity projected by their one-time labelmate Hayden. Again, label association is where the comparisons end; dreamy and gossamer settings like the stunning album closer, “Where the Planets Revolve, I Wish I Was There”, is proof that SIANspheric is in an orbit of their own.