Transcendentalism in freak folk: Devendra Banhart
I came across Devendra Banhart while scavaging thru Insound for downloads couple of years back; when Kai(redelephant) was the only contributing member of this site. (God knows where the bugger went, please let me know if you have any remote information leading to his whereabouts coz we miss the guy terribly!)
The Body Breaks is one of the earliest tracks i’ve heard and needless to say, i was hooked. It struck me as something out of a late-6o’s vinyl, what with that stalking, blues-folk riff fingerplucked in elastic time and trembling trembling nasal lilt ;somewhat Nick Drake-ish(pardon my musical inexposure, i was just a wee nymph then… any folk-guitar-and-vocals combination would immediately be followed by exclamations of ”so Nick Drake!’ or ‘how Elliott Smith!’ however, my opinion did change after exploring Bryter Layter) but, with a spook vibe, raw, surreal and intensely refreshing due to his unconventionally uncompromising philosophy of being able to ‘write and sing shit about anything and everything'(forgot the source, was a long time ago). Ay Mama from Niño Rojo is a searching, ruminative chant which somehow evokes a sense of mysterious spiritual well-being. The Black Babies, an early ep, is possibly recorded on a four-track analog recorder as warm overtones and an all-too-apparent tape hiss is detected.
Has modern music lost its magic to Digital Audio Workstations, over-mixing/producing, and the click-track monster?
Is fluidity in rhythm seen as a technical deficiency on a musician?(Hey if that’s really the case then Rubato should not be listed in the musical dictionary of italian terms, right?)
How about the loudness war? Does amplitude equates aptitude?
As artists/musicians, are we afraid to
‘live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life’ ?
to seek from the eclectic soul an individual vision of beauty born from necessity;
much like Banhart, a musical-Thoreau.
Or would we prostrate to pre-concieved industry standards and hex our masterpieces with mindless VST plugins, metronomes and a whole plethora of digital processes.
Indeed, it’ll be sad to learn that
‘when it came time to die, to discover that I had not lived.’