Devendra Banhart – ‘Mala’

A nightmarish listen, but in a good way.

Once the most exuberantly irritating of alt.folk’s raggle-taggle crew, high beard of weird Devendra Banhart has in recent years retreated inward and found a rich heart of darkness. With the overt wackiness refined, his music these days is both eerie and subtle. This album goes back to basics after the wide-ranging full-band effort that was 2009’s ‘Who Will We Be’, and was recorded at Banhart’s home with longtime guitarist Noah Georgeson. The record has an intensely intimate, navel-gazing feel, and meanders its way dreamily through Spanish folk, pastichey pop and techno. There’s a more deranged, perverse quality than ever to Banhart’s soft croon, and when on ‘Golden Girl’ he purrs “get on the dancefloor” over bowed guitar and rattling percussion it sounds less suggestion, more threat. Then there’s the album closer ‘Taurobolium’, which finds him mewling “I can’t keep myself from evil” in a deeply unsettling fashion. A nightmarish listen, but in a good way.

Emily Mackay