Prince Rama’s new album ventures deeper into psychedelic abyss

Eli Watson

It would be an understatement to define Prince Rama as a band that is out of this world. Their eclectic blend of psychedelic, Arabian-esque chords and avant-garde, minimalist instrumentation results in a sound that is part Animal Collective, part The Velvet Underground. Having released four albums since 2007, Prince Rama ventures into an even larger, psychedelic abyss in their latest release, Trust Now.

Trust Now, the band’s second release from Paw Tracks, the record label run by members of Animal Collective, shows the band is still trying to channel their inner weirdness, while also incorporating a more digestible song-writing formula. Unfortunately, the band falls short in their delivery, picking up momentum halfway through the album with the tracks “Portaling” and “Incarceration.”

“Portaling” sends listeners to a world filled with melodic vibes and tribal drums, with splashes and dashes of cymbal hits that provide a smooth transition into a strange, ethereal void filled with grungy, Lou Reed guitar strumming and eerie, echoed vocals from sisters Taraka and Namai Larson.

“Incarceration” moves with jangly guitar and thumping toms, while the ‘70s-laced psychedelic organ adds tension to a chorus that delivers with distorted, Sonic Youth intensity. The Larson sisters sing like an acid-fueled congregation as they make their pilgrimage towards musical nirvana.

Prince Rama shines when they are not trying to be too weird or eccentric. Where Animal Collective and even its individual members have learned to connect psychedelic, lo-fi weirdness with pop sensibilities, Prince Rama has yet to do so. There are moments when they are on the right track, such as in opening track “Rest in Peace.” Buzzy synths, dark ringing bells and the discordant, monastic chants between the Larson sisters make “Rest in Peace” a track that could have been Charles Manson’s burial song.

Prince Rama could be like their Paw Tracks label mates, but they fail to captivate at the very beginning of their songs. Most of the songs on Trust Now feel cluttered and not every idea conveyed in each song harmonizes well with the rest. Running at six songs, Trust Now does not deliver in a way that is indicative of any growth. The band sacrifices coherence for weirdness, and ends up creating songs that are disconnected from one another. The result is a psychedelic oddity that slumps and staggers towards success, but never gets there.

Trust Now is a small step forward from its predecessor, Shadow Temple. There are still onslaughts of sound that can be overwhelming, but the album shows flickers of hope in its more cohesive, guitar-driven tracks.

Rest In Peace by Prince Rama

Printed on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 as: ''Prince Rama wades deep into psychedelic territory''