Amid such peers as the Bevis Frond, Bristol’s Seers and such Japanese exponents of new psychedelia as High Rise, Ghost and Fushitsusha, England’s Gary Ramon lives in a world of mind expansion and trippy hallucinations, with one ear on today’s alternative sounds and the other firmly pointing to the past. The river of music upon which Ramon rides might bring to mind such well-known outfits as Soft Machine, Pink Floyd and early King Crimson but it’s bands that have been lost to obscurity — Dark, Astral Navigations, Group 1850, Savage Resurrection — that are of real significance to his work. (In the late ’60s and on into the early ’70s, England had a sizable population of underground psychedelic bands producing tiny private pressings of their records. Although possibly made without the groups’ parents even being aware at the time, records by Tintern Abbey, Moonkyte and the like now fetch absurdly high collectors’ prices.)
Modern Art’s debut album was the first of Ramon’s many records. Limited to a run of 300 copies, Stereoland — in a hand-painted sleeve — contains jangly ’60s-influenced pop originals in line with contemporaries like the Bachelor Pad. Recorded by a quartet the following year and released in a German edition of 500, All Aboard the Mind Train marks the real start of Ramon’s journey. Reeking of lysergic consumption, the album contains original lyrics like “Without a shadow of a doubt/We’ve got to take this way out/Through the backdoor of our minds/Watching out for these designs” as well as a cover of the Monkees’ “Circle Sky.” In 1994, Ramon remixed, remastered and re-pressed the record in an edition of 500 for his own Acme label.
Modern Art became Sun Dial (often Sundial) at the start of the new decade; made as a trio, Other Way Out conjures up memories of Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Nice’s Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack. Ramon’s vocals scream (or whisper, as the case may be) Syd Barrett’s influence; Anthony Clough’s keyboards, while not bombastic, are reminiscent of the Nice’s psychedelic adventures. (Clough also plays flute much in the style of Ian McDonald on King Crimson’s early records.) The 1991 UFO edition adds two tracks (“Visitation” and “Other Side”); the Acme version appends three more, bringing the album to a total of eleven songs and an hour in length. Despite its belated release, Return Journey was also recorded in 1990; the album includes a cover of “Magic Potion,” a 1969 nugget by the Open Mind, and exploratory waves of effect-filled guitar solos.
Reflecter and Libertine are career sidesteps. Self-produced as a quartet with guitarist Chris Dalley, bassist Nigel Carpenter and drummer John Pelech, Reflecter takes a contemporary Manchester detour, accenting the loudly textured guitar drones and echoey vocals in songs like “I Don’t Mind” and “Easy for You” with a brisk and modern dance-influenced tone. (For comparison, check the very different versions of Reflecter‘s “Slow Motion,” “Mind Train” and “Sunstroke” that appear on Return Journey.) The Fazer EP has “I Don’t Mind,” a techno house remix of “Easy for You” (retitled “Easy Fazer”) and two non-LP tracks.
If Reflecter was a minor breach of stylistic faith, though, Libertine — a gimmicky sounding big-budget studio affair with electronics taking a place of honor right behind the guitars — attempts a more radical revamp, nodding toward shoegazer rock and ambient techno, with precious little of what distinguished Ramon’s previous work.
Acid Yantra, however, is a fine return to form, as Ramon casts off contemporary musical life for a ride on a hallucinogenic magic carpet. With Libertine drummer Craig Adrienne and new bassist Jake Honeywill in tow, Ramon returns happily to the organic simplicity of analog 8-track recording. “Yeah you know what you got to find/And the searching’s on your mind/Yeah you’re doing fine/All your thoughts are out of line” (“Red Sky”)-these are the true children of Aoxomoxoa. At points, Ramon’s fluid, acid-drenched guitar recalls Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel in his “Maggot Brain” glory; elsewhere, his hands are guided by the soul of Jimi Hendrix.
Recorded in London at the band’s only live show of 1995, Live Drug consists of songs from Acid Yantra as well as such earlier items as “Slow Motion,” “Fireball” and “Exploding in Your Mind.”