Prince Rama Trust Now(Paw Tracks) Buy it from Insound
The question of authenticity occasionally rears its head to anyone with more than a passing interest in modern music. When Western (usually American or British, and white) bands or artists use the influence of so-called ethnic music, or even lift a sound altogether, who is to say the results are any less worthwhile than those made by indigenous musicians? Take the example of Vampire Weekend. Their rather conservative indie rock sound is bolstered by a guitar style lifted practically wholesale from King Sunny Ade. Does that make their debut album any less enjoyable? (Their second suffers from a case of over-familiarity, and a lack of good songs.) One of this reviewer's favourite albums of the year is The Master Musicians of Bukkake's Totem Three. The band's name is a sniggering, juvenile reference to The Master Musicians of Joujouka, a troupe of Moroccan musicians holed up in the Atlas Mountains, 'discovered' by The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones and brought to Western ears in the late 1960s. Totem Three is an extraordinary, geographically indeterminate tour of World Musics, joyous in its irreverence. But it's a fake, because it's made by a bunch of (presumably) white Americans. It's as good as anything by Tinariwen. Is that such a bad thing to say?
Anyway, this brings me to the matter at hand: Prince Rama's Trust Now. This is the group's fifth album in four years, and their first as a duo. Prince Rama comprises sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson, who grew up on a Hare Krishna commune in Florida, and went to art school in Boston. Their early attempts at making music consisted of a self-confessed "Blink 182 rip-off band", before developing into the group's current psychedelic wig-out sound. Much of the band's media coverage has noted their lack of narcotic intake, as if this makes the cosmic and mystic imagery of music and artwork more unusual. Maybe so, but it's the music that should do the talking and it sounds like it's slurring it's words. These songs seem to exist on two sonic levels. On the top level are the vocals and strings, high and keening as if striving for enlightenment in the heavens. But these are tethered to the ground by a lumpen bass that sounds like a hangover from their Blink 182 days, and a bizarrely dodgy synth that squelches and lumbers along dragging the songs down where they should fly free.
There are individual songs that warrant mention. Trust begins with two minutes of air-raid siren synth squall (a good thing) before the sisters begin chanting the title word relentlessly. Are they asking us to trust them? I wouldn't - they sound on this track like they're lulling you into a stupor only to sacrifice you at some stoney altar on a mountain. There is a ritual element here, and elsewhere on the album, but all too often it is dissipated by a lack of focus. I really wanted to be transported by this album, to be enveloped by its other-worldly sounds, but it is too tied down by song-structures that cannot break free of rock tropes and instrumentation that harks back to the more troglodyte elements of 1970s prog. It is by no means a bad album, and if you're already into the band it will provide a new fix of freakout, but to deserve any more than a 6/10 it really needs to nail the transcendental and ditch the kitsch.
As for the authenticity debate, well in conclusion I'm not that bothered about what's 'real'. It's the music that counts, maaan.24 October, 2011 - 09:09 — David John Wood