Trying to recall specific details of Prince Rama’s performance at Faktorý is a bit like trying to piece together the sequence of events from a dream—or a shroom trip. It’s hard to pinpoint the moments, to string together narrative from the rich, complex, delicious mix of light, colour, sound, video, costume and dance they put on. But I’m pretty sure that was the point. The Brooklyn-based band, composed of sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson, stopped in Reykjavík to perform at Faktorý alongside their label-mate and friend Kría Brekkan before continuing to tour Europe with their Hindu-inspired, mysticism-infused live performance
The show at Faktorý got off to a bit of a slow start with Kría Brekkan taking the stage an hour and a half after the doors opened. Her long set of experimental, deconstructed folk was fascinating music, challenging and clever. Her sound explored the boundaries between breath and voice—sometimes the words she sung landed on a pitched breath, sometimes they manifested themselves only as wind. Like Gollum, she sat on a stool, engaging in a disjointed conversation between vocals and effects. Between songs, she worked the crowd with absolutely charming banter: “I’m going to start a little folksy tonight. After all, you’re all folks.” Nevertheless, after waiting for so long for the concert to simply start, the crowd was sleepy and a bit unresponsive to such a mellow act.
Earlier that night, Prince Rama had put on a 20-minute performance piece on the outdoor patio of Hressó. The sisters engaged in a self-consciously tacky ’80s yoga-dance-exercise routine in front of a pre-recorded projection of the same routine. Though most of the trendy crowd preferred to gab away during the performance while waiting in line for burgers and beer, there were three or four spectators absolutely entranced by their sheer commitment to the ludicrous routine. It really is too bad that the crowd wasn’t equally confident enough to participate in what was clearly supposed to be an interactive experience.
This time, however, Prince Rama’s set tapped into people’s energy levels quite a bit more. Taraka manned the keyboards while Nimai tended to the drums, both of them preferring to stand the whole time. Though they mixed in some more performative elements—walking amidst the crowd in veils, for instance—they delivered a pretty solid, straightforward concert. Falsetto Sanskrit mantric vocals rung in my head as Nimai’s thundering drumming shook my trunk. The crowd couldn’t help but move.
It was quite a treat to hear a few songs from the upcoming album ‘Top 10 Hits Of The End Of The World’ in which they channel hypothetical pop bands annihilated in the apocalypse. Pop melodies clashed with mystical concepts in what promised to be a wonderful mix of sacred and profane. It’s a mature step for the band out of their dark, intense sound into a whole new territory. Let’s not mistake this as an attempt to become more accessible. The more innocuous the sound of Prince Rama, the more potent their message of mystical liberation becomes.
Prince Rama played at Faktorý on August 24. For more Faktorý events visit www.faktory.is/.