Everyone shouts nowadays, turning things up to 11 and generally overcompensating; it can drive you mad. So when a record like Mala arrives, so slight and quiet it feels out of time, it feels almost revolutionary.
Nine albums in, Banhart’s style is true to form, with his Bolan warble and muddied production still present, but now the absence of clarity is his strongest selling-point. Everything here demands investigation, yet the record sounds effortless, never wearying. It isn’t “work” to ponder why Your Fine Petting Duck shifts from a lilting duet to woozy Euro disco – in German. Nor does the fact that the title track is a 100-second worldless strum detract at all. The final devastating duo of Won’t You Come Home and Taurobolium may share a synth line (the instrument figures more heavily on this album than ever), but their sentiments contrast entirely.
This is Banhart’s best work because it functions as a unit. It may be cloudy and obtuse – and even sleazy at points – but it’s a unit no less. Hearing any one track on the radio could wrong-foot, but the prospect of sitting down and listening to Mala as whole is a thrilling, private and all-too-rare feeling.