Devendra Banhart: Flying Wig (Mexican Summer) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 17th, 2024  

Devendra Banhart

Flying Wig

Mexican Summer

Sep 27, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


For someone whose work has often carried the air of effortlessness, Devendra Banhart’s music comes from a place of painstaking depth. “My whole life has been filled with sadness,” Banhart says. “Everything I do in life is to help cope with that sadness.”

The Venezuelan-American is known for his multi-hyphenate prowess (Banhart also works in visual art, fashion, and art curation), and spiritual background (he notes Ram Dass as a major influence), and on his eleventh studio album, Flying Wig, Banhart navigates his different identities and spirituality with bare vulnerability. To do this, Banhart found safety in a home away from home, exploring themes of existentialism, rebirth, identity, and choice.

With close friend and producer Cate Le Bon (“She’s the only person I wanted to make this record with,” he explains), Banhart holed up in a Topanga Canyon recording studio once owned by Neil Young. For much of the writing and recording process, Banhart wore an Issey Miyake dress “the color of the spring sky,” and his grandmother’s pearls. Banhart, who first started singing in his mother’s clothes, likened the experience to coming home, and said he felt protected, secure.

That feeling allowed Banhart to explore sonic territory previously uncharted in his discography. Flying Wig is delicate, elegant, vulnerable; a departure from his 2019 effort, Ma, which, while still vulnerable (it deals with Banhart’s realization he may never have children), strikes a more radio-friendly chord. Flying Wig, on the other hand, finds Banhart exploring reality in the confines of ethereal, synth-driven sprawl.

“I’m looking for a feeling/Hard to explain/I’m looking for a feeling/Might not come again,” Banhart whispers on the album’s opening track, “Feeling,” a six-minute soundscape that unfolds in dimensions. Elsewhere, Banhart wrestles with determinism, such as on the Le Bon-esque “Nun”; and on the album’s first single, “Twin,” Banhart explores cyclical mirror images of the self. There are touches of Brian Eno here too, on “Charger” and “The Party,” which touch on the ambient without slipping into background music.

From its outset, Flying Wig immediately appears like a different beast to Banhart’s past work. It’s quieter, more subdued. Its poise is found in the negative space, in the tasteful production and pleasant harmonies of its layered synths.

Some longtime fans of Banhart might find Flying Wig a tough introduction to what appears like the “new” Devendra. But, as with any practice, the more time you give it, the more it emerges as its own, special self. (www.devendrabanhart.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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