In the world of internet buzz, Prince Rama is more king than prince at the moment. Their recent signing to Paw Tracks was a BIG DEAL, largely because it signaled the addition of a new favorite band for Animal Collective acolytes. But, despite all of the A.C./Black Dice familial relationships and in-breeding on the label, Prince Rama manage to bring their own entirely unique aesthetic and sound to the table. It does have it’s occasional echoes of Here Comes the Indian or Hollinndagain, but nothing more than small flourishes. So, in that sense, buzz deserved. Plus, the album’s pretty good, so hey, bonus.
Shadow Temple, produced by Tare and Animal Collective band-mate Deakin, opens with the mantra titled “Om Mane Padme Hum”. The jam is dark and loud from the word go, jangling metal melded with tribal drumming, a furry synth drone, and effected moans. The wordless howls and chanted title are entirely reminiscent of old school Pocahaunted on a far East bent, trading in the peyote for meditation. The volume level and amount of feedback at the two minute mark verges on oppressive the twirls of synth barely audible under the harsh. But, everything fades, the tribal tom beating out the rhythm that brought everything together in the first place. Dual female wails weave in and out, ending the track.
“Om Namo Shivaya” is similarly big, the opening synth “melody” grandiose, ponderous. Sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson intone and swoon, while band-mate Michael Collins’ deeper voice threads the balance. The swinging guitar, tribal cymbals and toms, and chanting are pure, unadulterated, danceable psychedelia, a denser, free-form, heavier version of what Yeasayer does, but without any sense of pop, for better or worse. The arpeggiated synth at the end of the tune, combined with the gigantic, quadrupled vocals is nothing short of Disney soundtrack, unabashedly huge.
The amazingly titled “Thunderdrums” follows, distorted guitar chopping out a simple chord progression, one of the Larson sisters tossing out what may be an actual language or might just be epic gibberish. The minute and a half long outro is beautiful, Nintendo synth birds chirping off into oblivion, swirls of feedback laying in wait in the background. Waiting, that is, until the rapid drumbeat that follows leads into “Storm Worship”. The feedback turning into crackles of lightning, rain effectively simulated as well. It’s a nice, jungley set-piece, in the end, building to “Lightening Fossil”. In that next installment of the story, those annoying synth vocals that every 90s keyboard came pre-loaded with are used to beat out a melody, Collins droning out a chant, the Larsons careening about over the top.
“Mythras” starts simply enough, Collins shouting out the song’s name. The near five minutes of drone embrace the simplicity and power of vocals in drone, layer after affected layer participating in a call and response with the guitar. The spindling, eerie vocals that begin “Satt Nam” are similarly powerful, reminiscent of early Gang Gang Dance, but the cartoony, fuzzed synth is a bit silly in comparison to the falling, minor repetitions of the track’s title. “Raghupati” closes the disc out, churning guitar, spiraling synth and powerful chant breaking to a release at the very end of the album.
In all, there’s probably not enough pop appeal to break through the way Animal Collective or Yeasayer did when they incorporated mass amounts of psychedelia, but Prince Rama seems to relish that very fact. They are willfully and gleefully obtuse, offering mantras instead of choruses. Largely, the thing I take away from this is that the live show is probably pretty impressive, when one can sit back and let the drone envelop them in communion with others.