Music

Prince Rama: Shadow Temple

Prince Rama's first album for Paw Tracks delivers a patchwork of chanting and musical interludes, all rumbling along on heavy toms. Nice and strange.


Prince Rama

Shadow Temple

Label: Paw Tracks
US Release Date: 2010-09-14
UK Release Date: 2010-11-04
Label Website
Band Website
Amazon
iTunes

Maybe the best thing about Prince Rama is that the band is truly weird. The trio consists of former members of a Krishna collective in Florida, the two sisters, Taraka and Nimai Larson, and Michael Collins. All three grew up participating in the religious chants and rituals. Though they have moved out into the larger world, and some of them have perhaps lapsed, nothing describes this album -- their fourth overall, but their first for Animal Collective's Paw Tracks -- as well as "ritualistic". There is a deep enthusiasm, a trancelike fervor that imbues each song -- though they are hardly songs, but rather a string of interconnecting pieces that work you up and over from beginning to end.

There was a time when Krishnas mostly played in hardcore bands, but the members of Prince Rama follow the old adage, write what you know. The music owes a lot to popular forms, like noise, trance, and prog rock, but the overwhelming style is closest to the drums and chants of unalloyed religious ritual. Maybe the closest comparison one could make to Prince Rama is the Wagnerian intensity of Magma. The French prog band centered on pounding drums and strange operatic chanting. Yet Prince Rama is ostensibly more peaceful than the bellicose, almost scary predecessor.

The bulk of the sound comes from pounding drums, chanting, and intense moans, yelps, and howls. Occasionally, more traditionally rock oriented sections of instrumentation come in, or snatches of melody break through the droning chants -- and these tend to be the standout moments on the record since they break up the monotony (desired) of the chanting.

Three of the tracks on the album are based on traditional Indian chants. The first two, "Om Mane Padme Hum" and "Om Namo Shivaya", set the ecstatic tone of the album. The second chant is more interesting musically, since after the voices drone on for a while, guitar and synth provide a bouncy melody that sounds both modern and traditional to run through the midrange of the song. The song ends with a carnivalesque series of triplets that recalls sounds from Animal Collective's last album.

"Thunderdrums", the name of the third track, gives a good description of the overall sound of Prince Rama. The hypnotic percussion and droning bass take up most of the sonic space of the record. The voices -- various levels of singing and chanting -- seem to stay up on the ceiling, flitting back and forth over the rumbling of the rhythm. But "Thunderdrums", coming off the first two chants, actually marks the first "rock" sounding song of the album. The song begins not with drums, but rather a nasty sounding low guitar line (which comes back on the guitar-driven, halting, "Mythras"). Apparently, "Thunderdrums" is "an homage" to Fitzgerald, but how so escapes me since the words being chanted are pretty much unintelligible.

"Lightening Fossil", one of the singles, has the most accessible melody, but it's still incredibly strange. A female voice sings a line followed by a low droning male sound, then both voices go into a seemingly normal chorus, which changes out the heavy drum sound for a tinny almost melodic percussion. There's a cool synth driving everything along into quick chant that sounds like a freakout from Hair or Magma again. Though this song is repetitive, it actually has a somewhat linear structure, like it's precipitating the climax of the album.

What makes Shadow Temple sound like a single religious experience is the vast wash, or room sound, that flattens out all of the melodic markers over the stomping percussion. (By the way, that "room sound" comes from Kurt Vonnegut's grandson's house as well as a haunted church, where Prince Rama recorded with the help of Avey Tare and Deakin.) The physicality of the album makes you feel like you've been participating in the ritual. By the end, you begin to feel tired. The sounds are confusing and overwhelming, almost scary (are you getting converted?). This is the best way to take your Krishnas; much better than being accosted on the street or at the airport. Prince Rama allows a vicarious participation that isn't precedented on money or belief.

The most admirable thing Prince Rama does consists in its strangeness. The energy of this album is thrilling, though it's not for everybody. Nothing quite sounds like this -- though you could think of similarities across a broad spectrum. And what this album does that is important is to remind you of the connection between the development of noise/drone in rock and roll and the influence of Eastern ritual music that seemed to peak in the late '60s and '70s. Prince Rama brings back traditional sounds to a scene that has been for the most part overtaken by electronics.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image