Devendra Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands

Devendra Banhart
Rejoicing in the Hands
Young God

Poised to release both a vernal and autumnal full-length in this year of our Empress Light, two thousand and four, there's little doubt that troubadour Devendra Banhart is as generous as he is cosmically aligned (he's also a cosmic dancer), which must make winter solstice gift-giving a real gas. Banhart's first go-round, 2002's Oh Me Oh My..., wrapped 22 songs in enigmas and put them under the evergreen tree. For his spring collection, he unfurls 16 gems about cognitive birth, amber fluid, lovely girls with big bug eyes, and handfuls of hands. Effortlessly prolific and gracious benefactor that he is, Devendra whips up lovely odes on the spot that announce "Will Is My Friend," and then namedrops guitar partner Andy Cabic on the chilly quiver of "When the Sun Shone on Vetiver" (Vetiver is another of Banhart's recording projects). The Jesus beard he's always growing is for Angel of Light and backup singer Siobhan Duffy.

The fact that Banhart bears the cross of a name that translates into "King of Gods" means messianic moves are to be expected on this, his second coming--I mean, album. Yes, he submits to the flesh, which splits apart like communion wafers on "The Body Breaks," and to the pleasures of another glass of sacrosanct wine, yet he offers more than just that ole time religion. Banhart cooks up a pagan sacrifice to fingerpicking idols like John Fahey on "Tit Smoking in the Temple of Artesan Mimicry" and makes earthly pains pleasurable on "Todos los Dolores." With pale faery queen Vashti Bunyan, he worships the sun. Further south of the equator, he reverts to the visionary properties of an Indian hermaphrodite, mixing yoni with his yang, shaving for his turn as the frontwoman for Abra (yet another artistic vehicle--which would explain why you will never see Banhart and "Honey Brown" in the same coffeehouse). The transformation somehow makes sense (sorta like the synesthaesiac lyrics), as his voice is Donovan as well as Billie Holiday, both Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki, all tiptoeing through tulips under the milk of the sun. Boy body, girl body, sun body, luna body, Devendra makes 'em heavenly bodies all.

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