The 'now age' duo of Taraka and and Nimai Larson – aka Prince Rama – have spent the better part of a decade presenting a trash-art version of danceable pop that has come across as a middlebrow post-modern prank as often as it’s been enjoyable as a fantastical, Hypercolor alternative to indie morbidity.![Please enter...
While the Larson’s Brooklyn base may suggest a kinship with the kinds of knowing electronica fashionista groups that seem to spring from every crack of a Williamsburg sidewalk, there’s a disarming charm to Prince Rama that at least intends to offer more than knowing musical winks and repurposed Warholisms.
This is a band that has an actual, visible manifesto which, while largely baffling, does seem to have been created with one eye on purposeful silliness, the other on an idea they may actually believe to be a bigger-picture plan. This multi-part document contains photographs of George Michael, musings on the importance of a symbol they refer to as the 'cruciform' and a series of frankly stunning pseudo-scientific diagrams involving the relationship between song and the human body. In closing they note that 'when time ends, NOW can be.'
So, they appear to be pitched somewhere between a scientology-like cult and neon-t-shirt arena pop. As wonderful as this sounds their latest record Xtreme Now (very much on-message), while offering plenty in the way of tangibly delicious rhythms and candied sounds, doesn’t appear to approach the duo’s philosophical side with any great level of commitment. The cover art appropriation of the Mona Lisa as interlocking leggings combined with the title seem to be as far as they allow their philosophy actually infect their musical output.
Sure, presentation is important, but if we’re deconstructing or reappropriating here, wouldn’t it be great to have some lyrical evidence? On an album they self-describe as being a soundtrack to a non-existent extreme sports video, created while under the influence of a stay at a death metal commune, you’d certainly expect something a little more chewy than “I’m looking out for the good times coming….I’m feeling dumb tonight so let’s do it” (‘Believe In Something Fun’) or “Agony, ecstasy, confusion, jealousy / now is the time of emotion” from the latterly titled song.
Musically though, there’s plenty to delight in - from the wind-up robo-glimmer of opener and lead single ‘Bahia’ via the storming stadium stomp of ‘Your Life In the End’ through to closer ‘Shitopia’ (yikes) with its shabby acoustic strum and compelling chant vocals it’s a record that happily skips through genres with pick n’ mixtape glee.
Everything locks together perfectly on ‘X-treme Now Energy’ - a cascading ocean of fuzz guitar, relentless beats and shoe gaze vocals that somehow capture the essence of the venture with a few simple, repeated statements.. “Energy” and “Destroy”. While there’s not exactly substance to these avidly intoned words at least there is apparent passion - whether intended to be heard ironically or not. ‘X-Treme Now’ is an intriguing, often entertaining bit of art from a duo that seem locked into a long-running lark that sometimes, perhaps accidentally or even incidentally, delivers the genuine article, sometimes makes do with platitudes and sidelong, distancing glances, but more often than not is a summery slab of fun.
6Matthew Slaughter's Score