Prince Rama: Shadow Temple Review (Four Takes)
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Shadow Temple by Prince Rama.
Erica Krumm(Sharp Teeth)
Synthy tribal dance jams, chanting breakdowns, and a spiritual, stoner rock vibe makes Prince Rama’s “Shadow Temple” a cool fucking record. My favorite song, “Thunderstorms”, leads with a sweetly distorted guitar riff, and vocals reminiscent of Cocteau Twins’ vocalist, Elizabeth Fraser. This song seriously stands out as a beautiful and extremely full sounding, emotional cult manifesto.
While keyboard loops and simple, heavy drums act as the main backdrop for the album’s overall sound, the sparse and distant vocals, along with the occasional fuzzy guitar keep the sound in the realm of rock, and out of new age-y, easy listening category. Do listen to this album while drinking wine, having sex, doing yoga, or going for a leisurely walk around a picturesque lake. Don’t listen to this record while paying bills, cleaning your apartment, or drinking whiskey.
Because some might think of this record as having a hipster, hippy chick vibe, (which I could understand), I would recommend opening your mind to the possibility that these dudes are here to create a sincere sound scape to pleasure you and aid in mind expansion. I believe Prince Rama just wants you to enjoy some great, weird music and I have a feeling that there are no pretentious strings attached.
For a band “from Brooklyn”, Prince Rama seems to have it’s heart somewhere further east. The band’s three musicians all have backgrounds in the Hare Krishna movement and at best Shadow Temple feels like spaced out tribal gospel; a sort of psychedelic religious music with surprisingly strong pop hooks. Make that “damned near-inaccessible” pop hooks thanks to layers of alternately keening and bellowing incomprehensible vocals and jarring electronic effects. It’s a thoroughly conflicting record, one that’s bizarre mishmash of genres can either feel harmonious or completely alien. During it’s stronger moments the band builds a trippy, eclectic blend of multicultural noise on top of driving tribal percussion. If you suspend your disbelief far enough, these “brooklynites” make an engaging worldly racket with strong spiritual underpinnings, otherwise prepare for a difficult nine tracks of wails, synths and toms.
Jon Behm (Reviler)
Did you know that if you play Prince Rama’s album Shadow Temple backwards at a speed of 33 and a third it will reveal a thirteen step map to the hidden tomb of Ravana, in which is secreted all the mystical rites of an ancient lost Ramayana addendum? Seriously. Check it out soon before Tom Hanks beats you to it in his new adventure.
…But seriously folks. Actually the immediate thing that jumped out to me upon first listening to Prince Rama’s fourth record is the band’s aesthetic similarity to our own Minneapolis stars Brute Heart and Mother of Fire. Prince Rama bring a synthier element to their brooding, psychedelic incantations, but neverless, the parallel is evident (leading me to believe that if Prince Rama can “make it” then our local bands have a good chance as well).
And I wouldn’t be surprised if Shadow Templedid indeed push Prince Rama into the national spotlight. The jams on the new record are well executed, fat slabs of sound that are equal parts eastern mysticism and psychedelic rock. Each song has a haunting, moody element to it as if it were meant to be performed alongside some sort of dark occult ritual. The all encompassing reverb helps to push that effect – making everything sound like it was recorded in a secret cave underneath your house. And that recording style both helps and hurts the band: at times it works perfectly to affect that distant, otherworldliness that they are obviously trying to achieve (“Om Namo Shivaya” and “Lightning Fossil” both being excellent examples). However it can also be a little overwhelming, making songs like “Thunderdrums” sound like they were just really poorly produced. It generally works more than it doesn’t though making most of Shadow Temple a bizarre and pleasurable listen.
The new Prince Rama record Shadow Temple, their new record and first on Paw Tracks, starts out with the sound of rattling chains. It doesn’t get too much more accessible over the subsequent 8 song, 34 minute record. Recorded/advocated for by Animal Collective member in exile Deakin (who also will be on a solo tour soon with the band opening), Shadow Temple is a study in tribal drums, mystical chants and abstract songwriting that Deakin and his friends helped to make very famous in the last few years. For people who think Animal Collective is the pen in the back yard where your uncle keeps the chickens, this album is going to freak you out. For the rest of us, it is a refreshingly original document that is both challenging and engaging. Shadow Temple shows a band willing to take chances but still focused and talented enough to deliver a final product that is one of the best surprises I have had this year.