The most ambitious album yet from the man who made odd folk music cool again, Devendra Banhart’s communal experiment — the band lived together in L.A.’s Topanga Canyon while recording — yields a grand and adventurous 16-track album.
It has interesting touchpoints — the Tropicalia classics “Expresso 2222” by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso’s self-titled 1967 album, David Crosby’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name,” Moonglows-style spoken word do-wop — and he effortlessly connects the dots between the disparate elements. That some of the songs are done in Spanish only adds to its overall playfulness.
Seemingly fearless, Banhart proves himself a big picture player, capturing not just the musical styles but the ambiance of the space he is recording in. Like Veloso, he favors the natural echo that emerges in a joyous choral performance; when he goes electric, the record evokes Topanga Canyon classics from the early ’70s; and he proves he can write and record a gospel number and make it as convincing as his signature, hushed work. “Seahorse” is the standout here, a behemoth of a track, clocking in at more than eight minutes and featuring three distinct segments that include jazz and psychedelic elements. Not only does it not grow tiresome, something interesting pops up on each successive listening. Seems like the same could be said for the entire album.