Review: Devendra Banhart – Mala
Published on March 14th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
In purely songwriting terms, Devendra Banhart continues to make a little go a long way. The Houston oddball shows little sign on his eighth album Mala of deviating from those decidedly tried ‘n’ tested chord progressions, but what he weaves around them remains lovely enough for it not to matter all that much.
However simple the basic premise, Banhart has an unfailing knack for plastering it all in delightfully drippy psychedelia and fuzzy good vibes. On the doleful likes of “Daniel” his dippy triplets and lushly hummed harmonies bring to mind The Bees, while that alluring eccentricity soaks lysergically through on “Für Hildegard von Bingen”, a dubby sort of thing about a 12th Century Catholic saint who becomes an MTV VJ.
“Get on the dance floor” he exhorts on the nocturnally groovy “Golden Girls”: how’s that for a clause that looks out of place in a Devendra Banhart review? Don’t worry, it’s still very much Devendra, as is “Mi Negrita” (as the Suarez said to the Evra…), an exquisite, lazily delivered, Spanish-tongued strum that could have been something The Beatles might’ve covered on one of their first few LPs.
“Your Fine Petting Duck” is by far the longest track at a whopping 5:47 – in fact, it’s the only one of the fourteen tracks to outlast the four-minute mark – and furthermore its silly, stoned sort of assurance goes down a treat, not least the frankly ridiculous wibbly synth it ends with. “Won’t You Come Over” quotes lyrics from “Twist and Shout” without sounding much like “Twist and Shout” at all, gifting nifty lines like “I can’t wait to consecrate this wondrous mess” to his own sweetly rasped croon.
He sings the occasional syllable of the triumphantly trudging “Hatchet Wound” like a baa-ing sheep, and it sounds ace. He lays a Beta Band-ish repeated refrain of “I can’t keep myself from evil” over the gorgeous deep plinky bass and clicky clacky percussion of “Taurobolium”, and it sounds ace. Banhart may be a few chords short of a feast, but he writes music so brimming with character and bright ideas within those simple frameworks that it’s hard to begrudge his constantly mining them.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Mala is out now on Nonesuch. For more information, please visit www.devendrabanhart.com