SIANspheric (formerly known as SIANspheric4; "sian" is a Hindi word meaning "intelligent" or "bright," and it is a common surname in places where Hindi is spoken) is an ambient/shoegazer band from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. They formed in 1994, and signed with the then-fledgling record label Sonic Unyon. The following year, Somnium, SIANspheric's debut album, was released to little public notice, although years later when music critics noticed it, it became something of a genre classic. As a result, the band has been favourably compared to Slowdive, Boards of Canada and Godspeed You Black Emperor!; a rather unlikely combination, to say the least. SIANspheric gigged relentlessly, mostly in Canada, through most of the late 1990s and early 2000s until they decided to break up in 2002. They have, however been a little busy lately (I'm writing this in late 2015) by releasing a pair of 7" picture discs—The Owl (2014) and I Draw The Line (2015), both self-released via Band Camp.
In Toronto in 2005, they reformed, and put out a new single, the 7" vinyl I Wouldn't Expect You To Understand on the Black Mountain Music imprint. They followed this up with a DVD+CD release entitled RGB, released on Sonic Unyon. The DVD contained live footage of the band recorded between 1997 and 2002, music videos consisting largely of completely random footage of Toronto's abandoned industrial areas, short films which feature actual actors, and quite a lot of 1960s NASA stock footage, based on or using the band's music as a backdrop to the odd things we're watching. The CD featured Dolby 5.1 surround sound remastered versions of their often twenty-plus minute ambient, sonic explorations, some of their fan-favourite songs (also remastered), demo versions of some album tracks and one previously unreleased song, the curiously titled "D'Yer Wanna Be P. Kember?" Given the band's sense of humour and altered perceptions due to psychedelic drug use, it may be an distortion of the 1980s Dr Pepper drink slogan "Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?"
The band has also worked with Adam Franklin's (of Swervedriver) Toshack Highway on a split album entitled Magnetic Morning/Aspirin Age. A CD with ten tracks, Toshack Highway contributed the first five tracks, and SIANspheric handled the remaining tracks. The final product was released in 2003 by Sonic Unyon. "It's not two full albums, more two separate EPs, and the packaging and art handles it all with sly wit," said Franklin. "More split releases should be like this." Indeed—almost all two-band split releases are 7" vinyl affairs with both bands contributing a single song.
As of 2006, SIANspheric is Sean Ramsay (guitars, vocals), Jay Patterson (bass guitar), Locksley Taylor (additional guitars, backing vocals) and Matthew Durrant (drums). All four members contribute to the programming/sampling that their ambient escapades consist of.
- Somnium — as SIANspheric4, 1995, Sonic Unyon, and one of my all-time favourite CDs
- There's Always Someplace You'd Rather Be — 1998, Sonic Unyon, CD
- Else — 1999, Sonic Unyon, CD
- The Sound of The Colour of The Sun — 2001, Sonic Unyon, CD
- Magnetic Morning/Aspirin Age — 2003, split album with Toshack Highway, Sonic Unyon, CD
- I Wouldn't Expect You To Understand — 2006, Black Mountain Records, 7" white vinyl which was limited to 300 copies
- RGB — 2006, Sonic Unyon/Inchroma Multimedia, DVD+CD
- The Owl - 2014, Noyes Records, 7"/digital download
- I Draw The Line - 2015, self-released, 7" picture disc and/or download
- Writing the Future in Letters of Fire - 2016, CD/LP, download
An album is in production as of late 2006, which is to be titled either Writing The Future In Letters of Fire or The Ethereal Melodies of the Lazerpipe Arkestra. Release date, record label, and media format are as yet unannounced.
Here's a little story about how I came to know the music of SIANspheric. In 2002, my girlfriend at the time was a friend of Justin Frankel, the guy who invented Winamp (and several other lesser-known but no less cool apps), which made him a multimillionaire. How they met and became friends is lost to me; I think it was initially a FOAF thing. Then my girlfriend met him again by chance at a club in San Francisco while she was there vacationing. They apparently talked and began semi-regular correspondence (he lives in California, she lives in Alabama). One day he sent her a mix CD, which contained a lot of shoegazer, lo-fi, and indie rock that neither my girlfriend or myself had ever heard before. Much of it was very obscure—I'm a die-hard shoegazer fan if ever there was one, and I pine for the shoegazer years (1989-95 or so), but apparently Justin is die-harder.
I don't remember much about what was on that mix CD, with two exceptions: "Break Me Gently" by doves and "The Stars Above" by SIANspheric. I was smitten with both of these songs, and rapidly acquired the doves' Lost Souls CD, but after an exhaustive search, I couldn't find any SIANspheric CDs until around mid-2004, long after the aforementioned girlfriend and I had parted ways. Of course, I'd downloaded as much of their music as I could find, but just so I could listen to this wonderful band until I could get a hold of the rest of their hard copy releases, which I eventually did via various online retailers. I can heartily recommend all of them.