Time Out New York | by Mike Wolf
Peteâ€™s Candy Store; Fri 3The best way to recommend Devendra Banhart is to say that you wouldnâ€™t want to miss a moment of one of his performancesâ€”if you do, you might not be able to piece together the puzzle that he is. The young Brooklyn-based singerâ€™s music, a bizarre stripe of folk thatâ€™s unrefined, dreamy and somewhat feral, can be baffling for minutes on end, with half-started songs and untrackable narratives shot through with his nervy personality.. But there are momentsâ€”a briefly lucid lyric or a fleeting chord progressionâ€”that somehow cast light on Banhartâ€™s mysteries, giving meaning to the whole of his sound and revealing him as one of the brightest new artists to come along in 2002.
At a recent Tonic show, wiry Banhart sat cross-legged on the stage as if the audience itself were a campfire. He strummed and picked an acoustic guitar, sometimes in a halting manner but often reminiscent of the breezy pastoralism of Sandy Bull or John Fahey, rolling his head gently with the rise and fall of his warbly vocals. At one point, it was hard to tell if he was playing a medley of short songs or just moving quickly from one to the next, and as his surreal words blurred together, the roomâ€™s atmosphere became a little disorienting. Suddenly, he offered one lyric as explanation for it all: â€œIâ€™ve never told this story to another living soul / For fear it might awaken and the story would unfold.â€ After that song, â€œCosmos and Demos,â€ Banhartâ€™s tales of bent teeth, love, and objects lost and found seemed to make sense.
Banhartâ€™s recently released debut, Oh Me Oh My... (on Young God, and the full title is actually much longer), collects 21 tape hiss-coated songs, many around one-minute long, and can be a little hard to get a handle on. The album is much easier to navigate after seeing him play, but an evening spent with such a weirdly captivating presence is reward enough on its own.