Prince Rama - Xtreme Now - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Prince Rama - Xtreme Now

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:9 Release Date:2016-03-07

I can't believe I've never heard of Prince Rama before now. I assumed they were just some Johnny-come-lately group who managed to create a brilliant album. Turns out the Larson sisters are a couple of virtuoso renaissance women, who do all kinds of crazy art projects in addition to cranking out music on the regular. And Xtreme Now is just fantastic, a twisted pop masterpiece that rambles all over the landscape leaving gems of every size and description in its wake. These gals are fearless and inventive.

Things immediately start jumping with the high-energy delight of 'Bahia'. It's synth pop perfection, with rolling rhythms, synths that are by turns piercing and goofy, and a Taraka Larson's sweet voice alternating with deep male vocals. It's followed up by the high-flying, massive synths of 'Your Life in the End', a song with the kind of heavy sincerity one might find on a St. Lucia or Magic Man album. But Taraka's voice is just so lovely, very similar to Dot Allison's breathy singing in a lot of places. The song does bring in some guitars towards the end, the first hint that the band has more range than initially expected. And the powerful choir-like repetition of "you gotta give your life in the end" feels pretty serious, belying the seemingly silly artwork.

And that's something that the sisters seem to have perfected: the art of existing in an inscrutable place where you can't tell if they're sincere or if it's all a big joke. In a weird way, it's an almost shamanic place they're operating from, where they seem to know a lot of secrets, but can't just reveal everything and must instead speak in riddles.

But back to the music: 'Now is the Time of Emotion' is a rocking little hunk of power pop, loaded with punky guitars. And it's followed up by the acoustic guitars and floating vocals of 'Slip into Nevermore', which has a decidedly new agey feel, especially with the pan flutey synths, but nimbly avoids being embarassing or cheesy. 'Fake Til You Feel' is a bit more dreampop but leads with mellow guitars, then builds itself up to another choral finale.

Then we arrive at the center of the album, and what is easily the best song I've heard this year, 'Believe in Something Fun'. It's insanely infectious pop, but has so much quirky personality you can't help but love rather than resent it. I believe in something fun, and it's this song, especially the hook-drenched chorus. This is the kind of song that when it finishes, the only thing you can do is immediately play it again.

Unfortunately, it's followed up by what is probably the weakest song on the album, 'Xtreme Now Energy', which is the closest thing to a title track. It does get to the heart of the album's concept though: the blending of revered classic works of art with modern extreme sports. Yes, look at that album cover. It's not just a random mishmash of images. It's very intentional: the Mona Lisa on the leggings of a pair of motocross racers. This is the grand vision (or brilliant prank) the band has concocted.

Beyond that, we have 'Fantasy', which can best be described as darkwave plus church bells, and more of Taraka's angelic vocals. The deep male vocals are back, lending the song a very Teutonic feel, something that could comfortably fit on an And One album. Then things switch gears entirely, with the harpsichordesque melody of 'Sochi', a song that feels like The Smiths took a trip to India by way of J.S. Bach.

'Would You Die to be Adored' is perhaps the most straightforward song on the album, which also makes it one of the least interesting. Basic beats and very 80s sounding synth and guiatr melodies seem oddly uninspired compared to the rest of the album. It does work itself into a decent groove, and would probably sound great on its own, but the bar has been set so incredibly high at this point that it's tough to keep up.

The album ends exceedingly well though, with the creepy, horror movie intro of 'Shitopia' leading directly into an aggressive piece of acoustic folk rock that has Taraka going for an angrier approach before launching her voice into the clouds again as the guitars go electric. Again, for such an odd seeming group, the music seems totally sincere at this point, but then someone unplugs the record and it grinds to a halt, before the creepy night swamp sounds return and a skrewed mini mix of 'Your Life in the End' swirls through.

This album absolutely blows me away. It's a masterclass performed by a band that seems to do whatever the hell it wants, and excels at everything it does. They sound like a million different bands all rolled into one. To fully experience the weirdness and sensory clash, I highly recommend checking out the group's visual art. They do a lot of big installations and pose in all sorts of disparate situations and costumes, again making it tough to decide how serious they are about everything. But who really cares, the music is great.

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