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

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.