BEWARE: If you listen to Shadow Temple too loud, you may summon a demon from the depths of the Aztec underworld. Prince Rama create music so tribal that the only place worthy of seeing them perform live would be on top of a Mesoamerican pyramid. During a lightning storm, and in the middle of the night.
Prince Rama are newly signed to Paw Tracks (the label founded by Animal Collective) and are determined to freak the listener out with Hare Krishna inspired music straight out of Brooklyn, complete with chanting, dark foreboding synths and something that sounds similar to a didgeridoo. Prince Rama are perfect for a certain type of art student who thinks Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti have “sold out”. Paw Tracks released Ariel Pink’s debut album, for the record.
First track Om Mane Padme Hum begins with some mantra like “ohming”, tribal drums and vocals that sound like Kate Bush warbling down a loo roll tube. The tempo steadily increases, as does the general noise, becoming more and more cacophonous and frenzied. Things start to feel a bit like the scene in Apocalypse Now when Martin Sheen gets off his face, strips to his pants and punches a mirror. And just when the song is going full-out mad and the urge increases to sacrifice the neighbour’s cat to Acolmiztli, the song is taken off the heat and all primal energy is released.
But don’t unwind just yet, it’s only just begun. Three songs in the middle – Thunderstorms, Storm Worship and Lightening Fossil – act as the album’s centrepiece and conceptual realisation of a band channelling the spirit of a utopian drugs freak. Distant distorted guitars crunch against the ghostly vocals and pounding tom toms whilst retro synths rise and fall. Rhythmical tribal beats full of splashing cymbals evoke wild ancient tribes praying to the Gods as samples of huge thunderclaps are layered on top. Finally, the album’s highlight Lightening Fossil pretty such sums up the whole band in just less than four minutes with a collection of all aforementioned ingreditents but made even better.
So, Shadow Temple is a very interesting album. But it’s also very demanding. It’s as if you need a doctorate in Brooklyn Hipster Music Studies to fully appreciate the band’s ingenuity. Several tracks amble on interminably, and often they’re so dramatic as to add up to a collection of music that feels more like a film score than an album. They get full marks for originality, but the end result lacks the charm achieved by their contemporaries – Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs, for example. An extravagant sonic experience then, but not one to press play on lightly unless you’re really in the mood.