Apocalypse, Wow: Behind Prince Rama’s Concept Album
Taraka Larson breaks down 'Top 10 Hits of the End of the World'
Brooklyn’s psychedelic sister act Prince Rama are on a good cosmic trip. Bandmembers’ Taraka and Nimai Larson’s new album Top 10 Hits of the End of the World, which dropped November 6 on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label, is a highly conceptual affair, with each song meant to represent the work of a fictional band’s biggest post-apocalyptic hit.
Despite the album’s meta-textual role-playing, the Larsons manage to maintain an impressive continuity, moving with ease from the synth-abetted coos of “Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever” to the dark and kaleidoscopic chants of “Receive.” We caught up with Taraka in the midst of Prince Rama’s European tour to learn what (or who?) influenced their curious endeavor.
“The record is all about possession: The present being possessed by the past, the past being haunted by the future, the future being eclipsed by present nostalgia. The way I see it, the world ritually ends itself time and time again, on both microcosmic and macrocosmic levels, leaving us with a landscape littered by ghosts. On a macrocosmic level, I think we’ve reached an end of history and pop culture is doomed to be possessed and re-possessed by past ghosts. The serpent eats its tail until there is no tail left. This is the dawn of the ghost modern era.”
“We were listening to a lot of pop music from all over the world: Arabic pop, Cambodian pop, French pop, U.K. pop, Swedish pop, pop punk, synth pop, pop pop. We recorded mostly in Seattle, so we also listened to a lot of Nirvana.”
“Yoga pretty much is the process. Creating a space to have a simultaneous inner and out-of-body experience is something you don’t just do for 30 minutes a few times a week in a yoga studio somewhere. It is a constant practice. It’s definitely not always easy, but when I can get in the zone, everything becomes an integral part of that process, even playing air guitar to Black Sabbath or eating some Doritos.”
“Chris Marker’s La Jetee definitely impacted the album. Making amnesia romantic again through a series of still images that create a post-apocalyptic environment is hard to top. [I’ve] also been reading a lot of Derrida’s writings on ‘Hauntology,’ Baudrillard’s ‘Illusion of History,’ and Paul Laffoley’s essays on Thanaesthetics, time travel and Zombie Aesthetics. Wow, that’s a lot of French dudes isn’t it?”
“I would say the photography of Cindy Sherman was a pretty big influence in thinking about the artist role as a shapeshifter whose body is a medium. She would take photos of herself channeling completely different characters in completely disparate situations (mostly fictional) and totally inhabit each role to such an extreme that sometimes you could hardly believe they were all spawning from one person. To me, band photography is the ultimate illusion and an amazing medium to explore the aesthetic masks people wear and just how arbitrary they are. We definitely had fun wearing the masks and playing the parts.”