Bandoppler | by Brian Whitney

Devendra is a supernatural songwriter

If 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, that’s because he practically did. In M. Gira's own words: “Two 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.”

Taking Devendra under his potent wing, M. Gira has overseen the recording, production, and releasing (on his own Young God label) of Devendra’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 – even down to the back woods beard.

And why shouldn’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 Devendra’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 today’s folk-rockers.

Backed by a collection of vintage instrumentation, production noises, hums, and subtle add-ins, Gira’s patriarchal influence can most openly be felt at the beginning of the Spanish sung "Todo Los Dolores" (translated “all the pain”) 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 doesn’t run deeper than suspected.