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Messy, unfocused and more than a little self-indulgent, RGB10 is not a great piece of cinema. Even as rock documentaries go it's a cheap production, but then again, it's not meant to be a serious, dramatic account of a band's story. Essentially, RGB10 is a home movie that's included with the SIANspheric CD/DVD retrospective RGB, and it starts with amateur video of the Canadian shoegazers in a car laughing and joking on their way to a gig that turns out to be, as one of the band members described it "the worst SIAN show ever."
Evidence is provided in RGB10 that supports the claim. Surviving concert footage shows a disinterested SIANspheric dispensing fractured, free-form skronk that languishes and dies in the band's tortured amps. Audio picks up someone in the audience saying, "Ugh … this is awful." And it is. It really is. But as ugly as this introduction is, you have to admire SIANspheric's willingness to share it here and own up to their failings. That kind of honest self-assessment can only bring good Karma, and in RGB10, what goes around comes around.
The rest of the 25-minute show pieces together mind-blowing live performances, snippets of impassioned, yet disarmingly funny interviews, and images of the Canadian countryside, as seen through a rainy windshield. No mention is made of the band's inner turmoil or its constantly changing lineup. Tales of alleged prodigious drug use are left out. In short, there's no story, no intrigue, just pictures, a little conversation and sound. But what amazing sound it is.
Packaged with RGB10 is a 63:55 CD culling material from the band's four releases and it reveals the good, the bad and the awesome majesty of SIANspheric. From crazy feedback squalls like "All On Standby" - a sonic supernova that's undoubtedly an ode to My Bloody Valentine - to glassy dream-pop meditations "The Stars Above" and "No Space," RGB, the CD, offers a rich, varied sampling of SIANspheric's space-rock epics for new converts and a smattering of lost material for longtime loyalists, who'll thrill to the overdriven distortion of the bruising demo version of "Rave On, Full On" and lose themselves in the acoustic lushness of the previously unreleased "Like Glass." In addition, RGB includes a demo example of "Swansea City" and never-before issued tracks like the trippy "QFQ" or the alien closer "D'Yer Wanna Be P. Kember?"
Not quite a greatest hits package, RGB, nevertheless, collects SIANspheric standards like "I Like The Ride," which pushed the band in a more melodic direction toward Swervedriver. Reflective of the band's forays into Pink Floyd-style psychedelia, the layered, conscious-altering hymn "Audiophone" is a sonic baptism that showers you in glorious guitar feedback, while the distortion-soaked "To Myself," with its drugged pacing, indecipherable vocals and tunneling guitar exploration, is an aural nightmare on par with any conceived by Sonic Youth. More sophisticated arrangements are found in the somnambulant "Without An Ounce Of Pretension II," a quiet drone, and the stunningly mature "Zoe," a beautiful work that eschews the wall-of-sound aesthetic for more delicate precision and melodic grandeur.
The DVD disc offers a ton of extras. Along with RGB10, there are five videos, including the touching boyhood astronaut dream saga of "Somnium." Complete with NASA stock footage and surprisingly expressive acting, it parallels the powerful thrust of SIANspheric's shoegazing engines. Moody and atmospheric, SIANspheric's "There's Always Someplace You'd Rather Be" provides the perfect soundtrack for a train ride to Churchill, Manitoba, a place that feels like the end of the earth. The scenery is breathtaking and lonely, a product of the fast-paced, seamless cinematography and natural framing of Christopher Mills and Stephen Chung.
All in all, RGB is an indispensable collection of SIANspheric ephemera and video artistry that coalesces into a surreal portrait of a band capable of tripping the light fantastic one moment and crashing to earth in a burning heap of wreckage the next. Disaster awaits SIANspheric around every corner, but to their credit, the band cut bait with the slacker pride and formless noise whiteouts that held it back and channeled its maturity and growth into a sound that, not by accident, became more revolutionary with every release. Not many acts can say that, but SIANspheric can and in RGB, they do, with amplified power and sound experimentation that was bold and majestic. SEE ALSO: www.sianspheric.com
SEE ALSO: www.sonicunyon.com
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he'll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.
See other articles by Peter Lindblad.
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