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Prince Rama – Xtreme Now

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Prince Rama - Xtreme NowThe world has changed and moved on since Prince Rama were a three piece with ritual psychedelic overtones and a multi-coloured vision of India running through their music. Since then they have been whittled down to the two Larson sisters, who have taken the band in a very different directions from disco to almost noise music. Xtreme Now pushes this envelope even further out there.

“Bahia” starts as a scatter funk track with rolling drum patterns that wouldn’t have been out of place on an Eighties pop album. The vocals chant in a question and answer fashion, and the beat makes your toe tap as the synth melody hums away brightly over the top, reminding me of mid-Eighties Scritti Politti around the period of “Wood Beez”. “Your Life In The End” has triumphant-sounding keyboards over a steady rhythm slightly reminiscent of Van Halen’s “Jump”. The vocals are wonderfully soulful as they soar up to the big chorus which is a stunning piece of pop that feels like it’s from the pen of Big Generator-era Yes for sheer uplifting power.

“Now Is The Time Of Emotion” is a pure piece of psychedelic space rock with a great hook line and hand-clapping chorus. This slips into Danielle Dax at her most colourful, a sort of “Blast The Human Flower” for the Now Age movement as it swirls around your speakers and gets you in touch with your inner cosmic light. “Slip Into Nevermore” is full of acoustic guitars and tribal drum rolls under some beautiful sad-sounding vocals. Again, the melody here is almost infectious; at the beginning of the track I was thinking, “This is a bit like Heart“, then pagan folk singer Damh The Bard, then Collins-era Genesis. The keyboards play a melancholy tune that resonates through to the part of your brain that feels an almost aching loneliness at being within the world.

Sampled unearthly voices introduce “Fake To You Feel”, with a Sisters Of Mercy-style riff playing under clattering drums and chanted vocals. This is the closest thing to the sound of The Mission that the Larson sisters have created. If there was a video for it, I would almost expect to see them standing on Glastonbury Tor while aerial shots of them are being taken, the spirit of 1986 fashioned through the Larson’s dark adapted eye. “Believe In Something Fun” adds up the funky dance rhythm into a reggae-style beat and suddenly Prince Rama become The Slits during the Cut era. And is that even a fake south London accent they are putting on just to lead you to their reference point? Pure mad genius. “Xtreme Now Energy” is a slice of poppy punk with its basic three chord structure and glorious vocal line, part Siouxsie and part Pistols. It’s energetic, high-octane fun that gets you bouncing around your room; and suddenly the album is beginning to feel very 1977.

“Fantasy” starts with a tubular bell tune that immediately made me think of Blondie’s “Rapture” as the high energy rhythm shuffles away beneath it. But here any similarities to that track ends as we are taken through a breathy verse more akin to The Dreaming-era Kate Bush and the chorus does little to shy away from that. The vocals during the chorus have a sense of urgency and the middle eight section is a thing of wonder. “Sochi” sees the Larsons change track again, a beautiful harpsichord ballad that’s as much dreamy 1967 hippie fare as it is Enya, all rolled into one glorious unicorn ride into the layers of the onion.

With “Would You Die To Be Adored” we are back to the mood of the Eighties underground, with a straight-ahead tune that slips between the sound of early Ultravox and Sex Beat (yes, I do remember them). The almost wildly accurate recreation of this sound is incredible and it’s something I’ve not heard in years — Taraka Larson’s vocals are just perfect for this sound, they give an almost stand-offish performance that also mixes a little menace and a smattering of passion. The album’s closing tune is “Shitopia” (a fantastic title) that starts as an almost Brian Eno ambient piece before a snarling set of vocals penetrate through the dream. Here we are treated to an almost straightforward rocker that has some Bowie-sounding strange pre-chorus vocal patterns. Suddenly, we are all 1973 for a closing number that has a kind of uplifting glam feel to its Mick Ronson-esque guitar line.

As you can probably tell, it’s really hard to try and pigeonhole both this album and Prince Rama; which is a damn good thing in my opinion. Is it eclectic? It sure is, but it’s never a pastiche nor a piss-take or even a homage to the music that the Larsons obviously love. But they make these sounds their own and use them as merely a route towards their overall vision. The album is wildly tuneful and hummable, and that’s what gives the Larsons their wonderful sense of ploughing their own path on the craziness of planet Earth, and changing it for the better.

-Gary Parsons-

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