August 18, 2008

On The Beat: Robert Nichols

LAST week I was joining the throng before the big festival stage at Stockton's Riverside. On Sunday I was enjoying a far more intimate setting in the Waiting Room restaurant, Eaglescliffe.

At Cosmos Recording show ime, the enigmatic PRINCE RAMA OF AYODHYA headed the menu with SAL PARADISE providing sumptuous starters.

There is definitely something cosmic and even a little magical about the music of Sal Paradise. Darren Reay's gentle acoustic guitar and sky high vocal twist and Andy Jones' whirling harmonium - like a Victorian nursery rhyme soundtrack, but soothing rather than sinister.

Sunbaked and uplifting, Gardens Of Eden is a melody that grabs you and takes root; while By The Sea is a tale of surprise and then delight at waking up in a strange place on the margins of land and sea. Nothing marginal about their genius.

Following the splendid Sal Paradise was a cosmic happening - or should that be cosmos happening? A collective spirit opening up, dropping out and unplugging before our eyes and ears.

The vocals of the flowered up Mel of Danny Kebabs and stablemate king of the congas Mackie were combined with a guitar, an autoharp, a didgeridoo and as much assorted percussion as you could shake a drum stick and tambourine at.

The results were rhythmical and volatile.

Infected by feedback and seemingly drifting out of control before suddenly lurching back on track and ending in a rousing climax.

I promise you that no one in this world sounds like Prince Rama of Ayodhya. The trio come from the USA but play music more tuned in to the Indian subcontinent.

Songs infused with tales from Indian epics and astral adventuring are delivered on an autoharp, guitar, synth and hand drums.

They charmed the Stockton Riverside Festival audience and a week later a packed to the rafters Waiting Room was devouring the cascading melodies, mystical mantras, chants and pulsating beats.

Taraka's extraordinary voice, Kate Bush like at times, weaves an incantation.

I would point you in the direction of the debut album released on Cosmos called Threshold Dances which will enthrall you from the first ring on the autoharp on the outstanding and uplifting opener Gita Nagari.

There are shades of psychedelia as well as World Music about Prince Rama Of Ayodhya. It is far more lo-fi than prog rock trippy hippy. In fact, the warped nursery rhymed melodies of Laura and Das Wanderlust are called to mind at times.

There are roars for an encore at the end of the set. At which point, Taraka, Nimai and Michael plunge into the audience and unravel a scintillating story set on the high seas. We provide the sounds of wind and surf.

With the rain lashing against the glass roof above us and the aromas of food washing around from surrounding tables, it is about as atmospheric a finale as you could immerse yourself into ... totally cosmic.

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