Devendra Banhart | Review | Black Babies (UK) | Matthew HD. Proctor

Devendra Banhart is the shadow of Woody Guthrie and William Blake praying and being inflicted with the awful vision of the Vision.

Each Banhart song is chapter in an endless saga of Americana. He continues the tradition like his forefathers Leadbelly, Charley Patton and Dock Boggs. Yet, instead of writing about the everyday world through plain language, Banhart uses poetry of pure experience, much like Blake, that invokes what the hell trees would confess if they could talk. Yes, trees do want to talk!

The Black Babies is not the full follow up to last year’s full length Oh Me Oh My…The Way The Day Goes By The Sun is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Love Songs Of The Christmas Spirit. Rather, it is a mini album that unleashes six unreleased compositions and two old ones from the debut.

Banhart has been compared to many as sounding like Marc Bolan. Yet, this description is rather inaccurate and can unfortunately perverse what he truly does sound like. Banhart inhabits and creates his own world. His sound and vibe is cosmic like Bolan, but Banhart draws his water of inspiration from a different well.

The sound is as lo-fi as the first album, recorded on cassette recorders and semi functional gasping four tracks. Yet, this is not detrimental to the songs. This lets the songs be what they are, which a proper studio recording could never capture and harness. The songs are raw, honest and most importantly have a creepy ambiance and intimacy. Banhart’s voice is only accompanied with a lone acoustic guitar. Occasionally, he’ll whistle or a weird sound will pop up. The atmosphere is similar to Alan Lomax field recordings and, also they also have the same timeless quality.

It’s like Banhart is on the porch serenading about postmodern judgment day vibes that is truly awe-inspiring. He also has a firm grasp on a mythical nature symbology. The lyrics are not linear. Instead they paint pictures much like Spanish poets Pablo Neruda or Federico Garcia Lorca.

“BlueBird” is a beautiful revision of the disgusting concept of love songs. Lines like “Clouds are sleeping/they is sleeping in the sky/clouds are sleeping over Sarah’s eyes..and all im thinking are all the sweet honey pie things you say,” are truly inspired and not septic growths of worn down conventionality.

The song “lagoon” has bewildering lines like “where did you go the Red Lagoon are ya gonna be coming home soon.”

“Old Thunderbird” which closes the ep is simple yet as mythic proportions with lines such as “Old thunderbird /All yellow/ When the night time came you looked the same/ still yellow.”

The great thing about Banhart is the mystery. Great poetry or songs allows the reader to find something of themselves in the shrouding fog of these shimmering infinite universes. This is what Banhart accomplishes.