REJOICING IN THE HANDS | DEVENDRA BANHART
Bandoppler | by Brian Whitney
Devendra is a supernatural songwriterIf Devendra Banhart comes across as someone who may have crawled out from the basement of ex-SWAN front man Michael Gira's New York home, thatâ€™s because he practically did. In M. Gira's own words: â€œTwo years ago I first heard the crude homemade recordings of Devendra Banhart, then a homeless, wandering, neo psych/folk hippie artist and musician, not yet 21 years old.â€
Taking Devendra under his potent wing, M. Gira has overseen the recording, production, and releasing (on his own Young God label) of Devendraâ€™s debut LP, Oh Me, Oh My, the UK-only EP release, The Black Babies, and his most recent follow-up LP, Rejoicing in the Hands, garnering young Banhart strong critical acclaim and oft-comparisons to the quirky, dark genius of Will Oldham â€“ even down to the back woods beard.
And why shouldnâ€™t he be compared to such brilliance? Devendra is a supernatural songwriter with a penchant towards 1920s and 30s ragtime and minstrel jazz. The trumpeting warble in his quivering choral seemingly conjures the spirits of Calloway, Armstrong, and King Oliver. The majority of Devendraâ€™s music balances on his unforgettable voice and guitar, whose picking style at times hints at the virtuoso of Django Reinhardt, a welcome respite from the lackluster strumming of all too many of todayâ€™s folk-rockers.
Backed by a collection of vintage instrumentation, production noises, hums, and subtle add-ins, Giraâ€™s patriarchal influence can most openly be felt at the beginning of the Spanish sung "Todo Los Dolores" (translated â€œall the painâ€) as Devendra giggles his way through a mistake early in the song, and you can hear MG barking out his encouragement from behind the soundboard, leaving one to wonder if their familial relationship doesnâ€™t run deeper than suspected.