Album Review
by SashaS

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D. Banhart: as free as a bird on a wire
Devendra Banhart : 'Cripple Crow'
(XL Recordings)
Devendra Banhart - equalizes artistic equilibrium

‘White Reggae Troll/Africa MP3’ starts automatically, the moment this CD is placed in a laptop, all 9:43 minutes of it; it might be just the ideal place to commence this extraordinary journey because this is Devendra Banhart‘s unparalleled world. Neither looking nor sounding like anyone else on the market, the man simply exists on his own cusp of reality. There are no rules, there are no limitations, there is nothing but the widest, and freest, imagination.

Combining reggae and African rhythms into one, Banhart still manages to get some rock into it and make this track such a gem. There will be strings later, there will be minimalism, there is a lot of things the man’s tried before but it is always fresh, dreamy and ethereal.

‘Cripple Crow’ may be short-titled but it is an album that offers more than 74 minutes of music over the remaining 22 tracks. There is a huge variety here, there is a large palette of coloratura, far beyond the acoustic sparseness of his previous three discs. At the same time, it is less peculiar and there are plenty of gems, more poppy rather than the unsettling, spectral folk.

At the same time it could never be straightforward because this American-born [Texas] artist, who grew up in Venezuela, before moving back to the US and travelling the world whilst collecting sonic sketches and notes whilst searching for knowledge and need to express himself in a much wider

Honky-tonk piano, droning sitar and some weird guitar sounds should attract new fans to Banhart's jollier moments such as ‘Long Haired Child’, or the gleeful stomp of ‘I Feel Just Like a Child’ and ‘Chinese Children’, which offers the infectious refrain "If I lived in China, I'd have some Chinese children".

There are still more delicate moments such as ‘Now That I Know’ and ‘Heard Somebody Say’, which rank with his most beautiful work. All the tracks bar one [‘Luna Da Margarita’ by Simon Diaz] are written by the man himself; as per usual - the album’s artwork is also part of his vision.

The man keeps his creativity close to his heart that used to be much more introverted in the past; this time it is far more accessible without losing any of the quality.

Devendra Banhart rebalances artistic equilibrium and let’s hope more and more people will look for it in this world that’s becoming straight and narrow by the [corporate] minute.


Devendra Banhart's album 'Cripple Crow' is released 19 September 2005 by XL Recordings