Release Date: Sep 14, 10
Prince Rama, made up of the Larson sisters, Taraka and Nimai, and their friend Michael Collins, met while in high school. The three lived in the same Hare Krishna heavy Florida community. Taking the name of the 7th incarnation of Vishnu, the supreme god in many sects of Hinduism, the group holds strong to their Eastern religions roots, relying heavily on lyrics composed of Sanskrit mantras. These mantras are sung mostly by sister Taraka, who also plays guitar layered with loads of echo, reverb, and delay, and backed by Nimai on drums (which she plays standing up, just like Mo Tucker of Velvet Underground!), and Michael on heavily spaced-out synths. The incarnation of Prince Rama heard on their newest record Shadow Temple has already released three previous records, though this is the first released on Animal Collective’s own label, Paw Tracks. I can say with deep sincerity that what Prince Rama has going on here is definitely their own though.
The album begins with the thundering tribal drums that will persist throughout its entirety, and a simple mantra “Om Mane Padme Hum” (the song’s title), which Tibetan Buddhists believe contains within it all of its teachings. This mantra is repeated over and over again, swirling around you and wrapping you up like the warm arms of the Buddha. The drums pound away, getting louder and louder until they die off completely.
The second song “Om Namo Shivaya,” literally means “I bow to Shiva”, who happens to be the Hindu goddess of destruction. Prince Rama seems to be welcoming this destruction, or at least recognize it as an inevitable part of life.
“Thunderdrums,” probably the most telling track of their abilities, begins with some more tribal drumming action, accompanied with a simple distorted guitar riff and Taraka chanting what may or may not be Sanskrit. At this point it becomes clear that the lack of inhibitions in the lyrics allows the band to achieve a certain sense of freedom in their tunes. “Thunderdrums” ends and flows right into “Storm Worship,” the album’s short drum and storm sample interlude. This could be considered the eye of the album.
“Lightening Fossil” begins with a silly sounding synth riff, that seems to draw unnecessary attention to itself. The song breaks just before the 2 minute mark with a very India inspired outro that’s definitely one of the albums most danceable moments.
“Mythras” almost sounds like it could be a more traditional pop song in its first 10 seconds, but there is nothing pop about these guys. This pop sound quickly melts and the synths and drums continue on until they are joined with slow, deep chants. “Satt Nam” begins with a chanting of the song’s title, a play on satnam, which is part of a mantra repeated daily by all Sikhs. It essentially states “god’s existence is the utmost reality”. It seems that Prince Rama’s deepest inspiration is in reaching this reality, a suspension of ego, through music. The album ends with “Raghupati”, which does a great job of taking the better aspects of the album and allowing them to build together into a great cacophony of musical bliss.