Album: Devendra Banhart
Rejoicing in the Hands, Young God / XL
Friday 21 May 2004
Like his friend Joanna Newsom (see above), Devendra Banhart is an oddity from the furthest fringes of Americana, a neo-hippie whose hooded, withdrawn appearance, cross-legged on a rug surrounded by candles, made him an incongruous presence amid the jousting egos of last week's Later... with Jools Holland. There are echoes of obscure 1960s folkniks in his rustic, whiskery delivery and finger-style guitar picking, and in a different age he'd have turned up on John Fahey's Takoma label, home of genre-bending acoustic guitarists, instead of being unearthed by Swans' Michael Gira. Country-blues roots are dimly discernible at the heart of Banhart's playing, but they've grown in odd directions; these quirky little songs are illuminated from within by an almost feral sense of naïve wonder. Lyrically, he's most engaged by the natural world, and especially by the human body - minutely examining his lover's physical characteristics in "Insect Eyes". Occasionally, flora and fauna dissolve into one: "Your branches crawl around my clocks/ And my leaves brush up against your palms," he sings in "When the Sun Shone on Vetiver". The main stumbling block is his warbling delivery, which requires a certain commitment on the part of the listener to weave its magic: once the spell is broken, it just sounds affected.
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