Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing in the Hands

Junkmedia Magazine | by Rob Young

Banhart is able to tune out the din of our world

Devendra Banhart's bio reads like a bohemian fairy tale. He was named by an Indian mystic whom his parents followed. Born in Texas, and raised in Venezuela and Los Angeles, he received a scholarship to the Art Institute of San Francisco when he was 17. In 2000, he dropped out of school and moved to Paris, where he was discovered by a club owner who employed him to open up for indie rock bands that came through town. Later, back in Los Angeles, a friend of Michael Gira's (of New York's Swans) heard Banhart doing a soundcheck and asked for a CD-R, which led to a deal with Gira's Young Gods Records.

Banhart's first record, Oh Me, Oh My… was a glimpse into a different world, one filled with odd musical refrains and lots and lots of tape hiss. Still, the album made ripples. Major national glossies like Spin and Blender even devoted a few column inches to his second album, Rejoicing in the Hands. And for good reason.

Banhart delivers his twisted tales in a warbling, sometimes-falsetto. His melodies recall isolation, introspection and loneliness, regardless of the lyrical content. Rejoicing in the Hands finds Banhart developing past his early lo-fi recordings in favor of a crisper, more succinct sound that highlights his intricate guitar picking. Sparse strings and other elements were overdubbed after the fact, giving the album a complete, but minimal feel. The effect is charming, and I mean that without a hint of condescension. It's as if Banhart is able to tune out the din of our world, allowing him an angle that's all his own.