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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 
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Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

A scant five months after the release of Rejoicing in the Hands, "new folk" artist Devendra Banhart is back with Nino Rojo, an album recorded in the same marathon session in rural Georgia last year. These 16 tracks are not outtakes from the first album, however, but rather a musically and conceptually distinct collection of songs.

"The idea is that Rejoicing in the Hands of the Golden Empress is written from the point of view of the sun as an old woman; the golden empress is the sun," said Banhart, speaking from London in a recent telephone interview. "She's been around for a long time and she's already experienced a certain amount of living and is just sitting back in a rocking chair telling a story... commenting on things in a gentle and tired, lethargic sort of language."

Nino Rojo, he explained, was meant to be told from the perspective of her child. "The reason I titled it in Spanish was so that I wouldn't have to write "Red Son" using a 'u' or an 'o,'" he added. "I wanted it to be open to meaning both 'son' and 'sun.' It's a red sun, and it's her son, coming out to the world and experiencing the world for the first time. He's really excited and exuberant."

That exuberance is reflected in the music, in tunes like "At the Hop" and "Be Kind," which have a lighthearted, celebratory feel. "The new direction of the songs — without me trying to do it — has been songs like 'Be Kind,'" Banhart said. "They're really more about dancing, instead of sitting down to listen. So I've been writing songs that are almost like reggae, reggae-Motown-space songs really."

Banhart spoke from the UK, where he had been doing a few shows, but he has been living in the South of France for the last few months, in a tiny town called St. Marie de la Mer, where his girlfriend's mother has a home. "I didn't know this when I moved here, but the town is a Mecca for Gypsies, a holy Gypsy town," he said. "Gypsies from all over the world — Spain, France, Romania, India — all make their yearly pilgrimage to the Gypsy saint, the Black Madonna, there. And, there's just wild horses and bullfights every night, and flamenco music everywhere."

Banhart has been sitting in with some Gypsy guitarists, but don't look for flamenco on his next album. "That music is just so unbelievably sophisticated, I really can't play it. I'm years and years behind," he admitted.

Since recording Rejoicing… and Nino Rojo, Banhart has also put together Arthur magazine's Golden Apples of the Sun. Many reviewers feel that this compilation, including tracks from Joanna Newsom, Vetiver, Six Organs of Admittance, Espers and White Magic, has codified the emerging psyche-folk scene in the same way that No New York did for the no-wave movement of the late 1970s.

Banhart made an exceptional curator, because he is a passionate and omnivorous lover of music, but these same characteristics keep him from being fully satisfied with the results. "The thing is, there wasn't enough space," said Banhart, of an album Mojo named essential. "I submitted way too many songs, and I didn't know how to choose, so it was done randomly for me. But if I could do it again, or have a second volume, I would definitely have Animal Collective, the No-Neck Blues Band, Sunburned Hand of Man, and M. Ward on there for sure."

As always, Banhart had a long list of artists he was excited about — he is typically much more interested in promoting the bands he's discovered than in talking about himself. Banhart's favorites are always worth checking out — last time, he sounded an early warning on Joanna Newsom and Vetiver. This time, his picks include Josephine Foster, Bobby Charles, Chris Smither, Janet Hunter, the Secret Machines and the Icarus Line. In addition, he has recently rediscovered Lowell George (both through his solo material and Little Feat), Jorge Ben and early Milton Nascimento.

Soon, Banhart and his friend Andy Cabic from Vetiver may have another platform for telling the world about the music they love. Banhart says that indie distributor Revolver is talking about setting the two up with a label of their own. "It's going to take a little while, but I think we're going to do it. Because there's a lot of reissues, old African stuff and even some electronic stuff that he's way more into, and some reissues, and also some really new people like Janet Hunter and some other bands that we'd love to put out," Banhart said.

Banhart is preparing for a U.S. tour this fall with Six Organs of Admittance and Scout Niblett. He'll also perform two West Coast shows with Clive Palmer of the Incredible String Band. For a full list of dates and venues check the Young God Records site. — Jennifer Kelly [Thursday, October, 21, 2004]


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John Vanderslice Kicks Genre

Paul Duncan's Elusive Pop

Stephen Yerkey's Wandering Songs

French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'

Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red

Brain Surgeons NYC Rock The Big Questions

Jarboe's 'Men' Charts Turbulent Emotions

Delta 5's Edgy Post-Punk Resurrected

Blitzen Trapper Spiff Things Up

Minus Five: Booze, Betrayal, Bibles and Guns

New Compilation Spotlights Forgotten Folk Guitar Heroes

Chris Brokaw's Experiment In Pop

Old And New With Death Vessel

Silver Jews: Salvation And Redemption

Jana Hunter's Beautiful Doom

Vashti Bunyan Finds Her Voice Again

Nick Castro's Turkish Folk Delight

Katrina Hits New Orleans Musicians Hard

Paula Frazer's Eerie Beauty

The National Find Emotional Balance

Death Cab For Cutie's New Album, Tour

Heavy Trash's Rockabilly Rampage

Help The Wrens Get Their Albums Released!

Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label

Lydia Lunch's Noir Seductions

Bosque Brown's The Real Deal

PDX Pop Now! Fest Announces Lineup

Sarah Dougher Starts Women-Focused Label

Jennifer Gentle's Joyful Psyche

Mountain Goat Darnielle Gets Autobiographical With 'Sunset Tree'

Mia Doi Todd's Beautiful Collaboration

Return of the Gang of Four

Martha Wainwright Finds Her Voice

Brian Jonestown Massacre's Acid Joyride

Solo Disc Due From Pixies' Frank Black

Heartless Bastards' Big-Hearted Rock

Mike Watt's Midlife Journey

The Black Swans Balance Old And New

Nicolai Dunger's Swedish Blues

The Insomniacs' Hard-Edged Pop

Yo La Tengo Collection Due

Juana Molina's 'Homemade' Sound

Beans Evolves

Earlimart's Songs Of Loss

Devendra Banhart's 'Mosquito Drawings'

Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'

Alina Simone Transforms The Ordinary

Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

Octet's Fractured Electric Pop

Sleater-Kinney Working With Lips Producer

The Cult Of Silkworm

The Evolution Of The Concretes

Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

Catching Up With The Incredible String Band

Gram Rabbit's Desert Visions

Three Indie-Rock Stars Unite As Maritime

Remembering Johnny Ramone

Jarboe's Many Voices

Phil Elvrum's Long Hard Winter

First U.S. Release For Vashti Bunyan Album

Incredible String Band To Tour U.S.

New Music From Lydia Lunch

Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency

Joel RL Phelps: Bleak Songs Rock Hard

Time Tripping With Galaxie 500

Patti Smith Wants Bush Out!

Sharron Kraus: A New Kind Of Folk Music

The Fiery Furnaces' Psychedelic Theater

Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

Sonic Youth's Ongoing Experiment

The Dt's Do It Their Way

Poster Children Cover Political Rock

Rare Thelonious Monk Recordings Due

Uneasy Pop From dios

Beck, Lips, Waits Cover Daniel Johnston

Understanding Franz Ferdinand

The Truly Amazing Joanna Newsom

Mylab's Boundary-Crossing Experiments In Sound

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The 'Magical Realism' Of Vetiver

The Restless, Rootsy Songs Of Eszter Balint

The Sun Sets On The Blasters

Devendra Banhart To Tour U.S.

The East/West Fusion Sounds Of Macha

Destroyer Gets Mellow For Your Blues

TV On The Radio Get Political

Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse To Play Lollapalooza 2004

New Music From The Fall

Apocalyptic Sound From The Intelligence

Fast And Rude With The Casual Dots

'Rejoicing' With Devendra Banhart

New Album, Tour From The Polyphonic Spree

Shearwater Take Wing

Sleater-Kinney To Tour East/West Coasts

Resurrecting Rocket From The Tombs

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Lloyd Cole Makes A Commotion

Funkstörung's 'Cut-Up' Theory

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Experimental Sounds From Hannah Marcus

The Ponys Play With Rayguns

Ex-Mono Men Leader Returns With The Dt's

Mountain Goats' Darnielle Adopts A More Hi-Fi Sound

Sun Kil Moon To Tour U.S., Europe

Nothin' But The Truth From The Von Bondies

Sultans Survive 'Shipwreck'

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Xiu Xiu's 'Reality' Rock

Meet The Patients

Beth Orton, M. Ward Make Sadness Taste Sweet

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Radiohead, Pixies, Dizzee Rascal To Play Coachella

Young People Tour Behind War Prayers

Pixies Tour Dates Announced

Ani DiFranco Tells It Like It Is

Deerhoof Back For 2004 With Milkman

McLusky Set To 'Bring On The Big Guitars' Again

Pixies Reunite For U.S., European Tours

American Music Club, Decemberists To Play NoisePop 2004

Damien Rice Set To Tour U.S.

The Frames Accept Your Love

Punk Rock's A-Frames To Re-Record Third Album

Finally! Mission Of Burma Record New Album

A Solo Detour For Ladybug Transistor's Sasha Bell

Return Of The Old 97's

Spending The Night With Damien Rice

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The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

Neil Young Rocks Australia With 'Greendale'

Poster Children Back In Action

'The Great Cat Power Disaster Of 2003'

Chicks On Speed's Subversive Strategies

Oranger At A Crossroad

Peaches On Tour And In Control

Jawbreaker's Complete Dear You Sessions To Be Released

Belle & Sebastian + Trevor Horn = Sunny Pop Nirvana

Von Bondies' Pawn Shoppe Heart

Descendents Are Back!

Modest Mouse Touring; Album Due in 2004

London Suede Take A (Permanent?) Break

Saul Williams Wants You To Think For Yourself

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The Hunches: Music That'll 'Fucking Live Forever'

Vic Chesnutt Speaks His Mind

90 Day Men Cancel Tour

Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

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EP Due From The Polyphonic Spree

Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova Collaborate On EP

The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Ben Lee

Catching Up With Cheerfully Defiant Tricky

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Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling

Death Cab To Tour U.S.

Rufus Wainwright's Want One Is 'Family Affair'

Death Cab's Transatlanticism On The Way

Heartfelt Rock From Sweden's Last Days Of April

The Minus 5 Get Down With Wilco

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Xiu Xiu's Stewart Takes On 'Gay-bashing'

Portishead Producer Resurfaces Behind New Diva

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wire, Primal Scream On Buddyhead Comp

Yeah Yeah Yeahs To Tour West Coast

Sonic Youth, Erase Errata Kick Off 'Buddy Series'

The Locust Are One Scary Band

Damien Rice In The 'Here And Now'

Remembering Karp's Scott Jernigan

ATP-NY Postponed 'Til At Least 2004

The Soul Of Chris Lee

Gits' Frenching The Bully To See Re-Release

Stephen Malkmus Is In Control

Superchunk To Release Rarities Set; Teenage Girls To Swoon As A Result

Summer Touring For The Gossip

Babbling On About Deerhoof

Irish Song Poet Damien Rice's O Released In U.S.

Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

Former Digable Planets Frontman Surfaces With Cherrywine

ATP L.A. Festival Rescheduled For Fall

Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

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Mark Romanek's 'Hurt' Revives Johnny Cash's Career

The Rapture's Post-Punk, Post-Dance Sound

R.E.M., Wilco, Modest Mouse Highlight Bumbershoot Fest

Set Fires To Flames' Sleep-Deprivation Sound

Southern Gothic Past Shadows Verbena's La Musica Negra

The Subtle Evolution Of Yo La Tengo

Spring Tour For Jolie Holland (Plus A Live Album)

Liz Phair Still Pushing The Limits

Gold Chains Wants You To Dance And Think

Young People's War Prayers On The Way



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