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Rejoicing In The Hands by Devendra Banhart

Sonomu by e/n

This is really a fundamental release to have and enjoy at all moments

Since I first got the chance to listen to Devendra's 4-track single on XL Recordings (to be released as a 7" vinly) I simply could not stop playing the 20 minutes of pure mesmerizing work which opens with the astonishing 'The Body Breaks'. A week later I find myself listening to the full length album and it did not take long before I had made up my mind: this is a work of genius and it will be my favourite 2004 album (I know, we are only in May).

When Young God Records boss and former Swans member Michael Gira, discovered the young prodigy Devendra Banhart, he was still "a homeless, wandering, neo-psych/folk hippie artist and musician, not yet 21". He was astonished by this quivering, high-tension wired voice that could have been recorded 70-years ago. Upon hearing his tapes, Gira apparently sent him a 10-page letter and the Texas-born (Vincent Gallo/Ian Anderson [Jethro Tull] lookalike) immediately moved from California to New York. His first release on Young God 'Oh me, Oh my...' was already a great solo work made of pieces recorded on "assorted borrowed and usually broken 4-track cassette recorders by Devendra himself, in various haphazard locations around the globe".

His outrageous latest album on XL Recordings (first of two 2004 releases), 'Rejoicing In The Hands' reaches a near perfection for this contemporary reincarnation of young geniuses such as Nick Drake or Tim Buckley. Strongly influenced by traditional folk music, his work is simply as genuine as it gets. The astonishing voice with such natural vibrato and powerful emotional drive is the leading instrument of his grassroots music making. With such a marvellous opening track 'This is the way', it is difficult to go wrong with the remaning 15 short tracks of the album. It is the kind of album where it is very hard to decide which is the best track. Yet, 'The body brakes' is certainly the first climax of the album (and only the third track) with a solo guitar piece and quite beautifully strange lyrics: 'the body breaks and the body is fine' (!).

Although the album is (rightly) homogenous all along, there are tracks where his voice reaches the most undisclosed beautiful territories which have been visited only by Tim Buckley in his 'Dream Letter' concert when he was only 21. 'This beard is for Siobhan' is also the song in which Devendra exhales in happines and joy. His other particularly great achievement is his Spanish-spoken song (Devendra grew up in Caracas, Venezuela before moving to California) 'Todo Los Dolores'. It is here that Devendra reveals his young age and child fantasies whilst his voice recalls great traditional Central/South American singers crying out for their lost love. This release is complemented by Devendra's drawings and writings... If I was not clear enough, this is really a fundamental release to have and enjoy at all moments, I am still humming and singing his tunes all day long!

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