Prince Rama, Shadow Temple
At once ridiculous and riveting
So you think you like cult music. Here's something from a trio of refugees from a Hare Krishna commune that'll really make you wanna drink the Kool-Aid. Drum circle percussion? Check. Songs cribbed from ancient Indian chants? Check. Reverb controls set for the heart of the sun? Check, check. With production help from Animal Collective's Avey Tare and Deakin, Shadow Temple is one of those records that is at once ridiculous and riveting.
On one level it's deadly serious: "Om Mane Padme Hum," "Om Namo Shivaya" and "Raghupati" have their basis in Buddhist and Hindu religion, and the drones that permeate will be familiar to all who've taken a meditation or yoga class. And yet everything is comically overstated to the point of camp: The groaning bass vocals suggest the Tiki gods of Martin Denny and his exotica descendants while the nonstop psychedelic effects come so thick you can spread them with a spoon. The influence of Krautrock pioneers Ash Ra Tempel and Amon Düül II looms heavy by way of inspired amateurish musicianship (note quasi-operatic vocals that warble and wail in and around actual notes). Instead of memorable melodies, there's one-chord jamming and multiple thunderous climaxes. Someone either took a lot of bad LSD or desperately wants you to believe that they — or their parents — did.
And yet, by virtue of its loopiness, it works. Synths ooze cosmic slop, guitars grind out primordial squalls, and everywhere people are beating on shit. The ultimate expression of Animal Collective's freaky-deaky aesthetic, this is one of those records where analyzing individual tracks is pointless because three minutes of this stuff provokes head scratching but 35 inspires submission. Its exaggeration points the way to its transcendence: Put it on at the end of a party, and you'll either send folks running for the exits or into orgiastic fits of bacchanalia and laughter. It's that extreme.