“Als eine Flamme reist du durch das essentialisierte Universum.”
“Why the hell did they start writing in German?” do you probably think right now. We at NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION certainly don’t have a clue although we understand the lyrics. Guess we will all just have to rely on that DEVENDRA BANHART knows what he wants to tell us with it. However, lyrics like this don’t come as a surprise for everyone who knows this charming folk artist. Isn’t exactly that wacky and eccentric style the reason why we love him for? Well, he does certainly not disappoint us with his new record Mala, the first one in four years.
Mala is an Eastern European word which means as much as “sweetie pie” or “my sweet dear thing”. It was inspired by his Serbian fiancee and visual artist Ana Kras, who also lends her voice to the track Your Fine Petting Duck, a light-footed duet that leads into a – surprisingly – vibrant electronic piece. This is definitely a standout piece and something unexpected, yet refreshing for Banhart. They sing about a failed relationship in all its quirkiness and also due to the mere inconsistency of style within that track it gains an elated and humorous vibe. Oh, and they mostly do it in German too. What else is there to say? With tracks like this one simply cannot limit BANHART into one single genre.
In a press release he stated: “I think five percent of all songs can be love songs, and another five percent can be miscellaneous or political, but the rest should be about medieval feminists.” A word and a blow. Für Hildegard von Bingen is a track about a medieval feminist who gets hand of a VHS cassette and decides to become an MTV VJ to escape her cloister. What kinky story is that? Well-fitting to the upcoming spring season BANHART covers the lyrics in some easy, funky lovely tunes. His smooth vocals flow over the lines, a simple guitar riff plays and the beat simply grooves his way through the song. Like a warm breeze, caressing the listeners ears.
It’s so much to discover in here and there are so many hauntingly charming tracks on Mala like Never Seen Such Good Things which is a sincerely ironic piece (“If we ever make sweet love again / I’m sure it will be quite disgusting”), the opener Golden Girls a pretty mellow and melancholic track, or Daniel which, in all its brevity, tells the story about a relationship from the very beginning to the end. DEVENDRA BANHART is proving to be an artist that constantly pushes his sound, something that’s not only admirable but also refreshing. He never does quite what the listener expects, instead he is comfortable with his own uncertainty.
Mala‘s success lies chiefly in its imperfections; as if BANHART created it by turning all the lights off and relied only on his senses and instinctive impulses. It’s a merry and delightful flight through the head and the heart, and a humorous reflection of what it simply means to live. For the listener it seems like you’re swimming in a sea of nostalgia. It’s beautifully wacky, repeatedly surprising, yet strangely peaceful. No matter which language is used.