Devendra Banhart - Mala

Taking time out

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.

5 stars 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars

Nonesuch | tbc

Reviewed by Jake Kennedy
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