Review: Sun Dial ‘Messages From The Mothership’

Sun Dial‘s latest release, Messages From The Mothership, brings me back to that unforgettable summer day of July 6th, 1991 when I first crossed paths with Gary Ramon, the mastermind behind Sun Dial. We met at his parents’ residence on Lorne Road, Walthamstow, London E17. The interview was orchestrated by Hugo Chavez Smith, a Chilean record collector, proprietor of Magic Mixture record shop (inside Balham market), and owner of Tangerine record label.

Sun Dial 'Messages From The Mothership' Artwork
Sun Dial ‘Messages From The Mothership’ Artwork

It was Hugo who gave Ramon the opportunity to embark on his psychedelic journey with Sun Dial after coming across their demo tape. The result was their debut album, Other Way Out (Tangerine, 1990). For those unfamiliar with Gary Ramon‘s prolific musical history, he initially ventured into the music scene in the early ’80s during the new romantic era under the alias Modern Art. Operating as a one-man band, he crafted electro/synth rock reminiscent of Depeche Mode, Classic Noveaux, Cabaret Voltaire, with hints of Suicide, Sad Lovers and Giants, and a touch of krautrock. Most of Modern Art’s releases, mostly on cassette, were published under Ramon‘s Color Disc label, with a couple of vinyl exceptions.

Modern Art’s sound evolved over the years, eventually embracing a psychedelic, acid space rock style. This transformation culminated in the birth of Sun Dial and the release of the quintessential psych space rock album, Other Way Out, later reissued by London’s UFO Records and subsequently by other labels. The album is a sonic journey filled with psych fuzz guitars, entrancing spacey sounds, and ’60s psychedelic vibes.

Take, for instance, the mesmerizing ten-minute track She’s Looking All Around, which flawlessly blends acid folk and rock. Under the UFO label, they followed up with Reflector in 1992, a record that retained traces of Modern Art’s musical essence while embracing the vibrant shoegaze sound akin to Swervedriver. Mind Train stood out, showcasing their unwavering affection for ’60s psychedelic sounds.

In 1993, Ramon signed a two-album deal with the prominent indie label Beggars Banquet, delivering Libertine in 1993 and, two years later, the eclectic blend of acid folk, acoustic, and experimental blues in Acid Mantra, a true gem of a masterpiece. Following a hiatus, Ramon explored experimental electronic space kraut sound with his Quad projects, including a 1997 live recording at ICA.

Sun Dial resurfaced in 2003 with Zen For Sale (Acme), a captivating release combining psych acid mantra with flowing kraut kosmische musik. Other Way In arrived in 2005 (Third Eye Studio), followed five years later by the grungy, heavy psych stoner self-titled album Sun Dial, a wall of sound reminiscent of Nirvana meeting Monster Magnet, and Pumpkinhead (Shrunken Head).

a testament to the enduring creativity and sonic exploration of this extraordinary band…

Ramon‘s musical journey oscillated but always embraced the majestic sound that defined Sun Dial. In 2016, he signed with Sula Bassana’s Sulatron Records, releasing Made In The Machine (2016) and Science Fiction (2018). These albums showcased his electronic music influences, creating a spectacular, fluid, and experimental kraut space rock sound.

After a five-year sojourn in space, Sun Dial returns with their 10th album, Messages From The Mothership, released via Sulatron Records. This new power space trio, featuring Ramon on vocals, guitars, and Hammond, along with his longtime collaborator Scorpio on bass and percussion, and his wife Cleo on Mellotron, embarks on a phantasmagorical rock space odyssey. It’s a journey that encompasses thirty three years of musical exploration, led by a supernatural captain dwelling in a timeless realm.

The album kicks off with Echoes All Around, a joyous and entrancing track that immerses you in an unending trance. New Day and Burning Bright both offer acoustic mantra-like songs with emotive vocals, creating a magical aura that envelops the listener. Look Up To The Skies exudes spiritual vibes reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Set The Controls

Flipping to the B-side, Edge Of Light reminds us of the enduring brilliance of space rock pioneers Hawkwind. However, it’s the title track, Messages From The Mothership, that truly steals the show. It sweeps you away into an unending, euphoric, and spiritual musical experience, a dancing mantra that never ceases. Closing the album with Saucer Noise, Sun Dial works wonders. This lengthy, joyous jam is a fusion of space, prog, acid stoner rock, and pure saucer noise, transporting your senses into an orgasmic vortex of emotions.

For Sun Dial’s fans who purchase the CD, there is an extra whirlwind surprise with an additional seven minutes of mind-bending experimental sound akin to Popol Vuh’s Osianna Mantra that emerges from Demagnetised. Once you’ve received these messages, it’s essential to share the word far and wide. Sun Dial‘s Messages From The Mothership is available in a limited edition of 300, a testament to the enduring creativity and sonic exploration of this extraordinary band.

Label: Sulatron Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify

Scribed by: Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Caccamo