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Devendra Banhart’s serendipitous ‘Ape in Pink Marble’

| Monday, September 26, 2016

Ape_in_pink_marble_WEBLAUREN WELDON | The Observer

Every few years Devendra Banhart pops in to offer his next charming collection. The fickle nature of his output is a defining characteristic, his tracks are not put through the grinder to come out in neatly labeled cans. Banhart’s new album “Ape in Pink Marble” is as raw as it is refined, a collection of late night musings more than concentrated effort. The record as a whole sounds like a collection of tracks that serendipitously came about through Banhart casually plucking away at his guitar.

If listeners had begun to expect Banhart would abandon his quirky and other-worldly sound, “Ape in Pink Marble” proves otherwise, sticking to Banhart’s signature melodies and dreamy lyrics. The leading track “Middle Names” coaxes the listener with its flowing, sunny melodies. Banhart’s voice is soothing as he gently speaks to a lover, “sitting there in front of the station,” as the rain falls down with gentle thuds.

The album does not come with guns a-blazing but rather slowly seeps into your subconscious. At some points the music actually stops its slow progression and crawls to a dead halt, the middle portions of “Linda” punctuated by absolute silence and the occasional strum of a lazy chord. The haunting acoustics of the track give it a remarkably melancholy feel. This composition, as well as that of others on the track, comes across as inventive, but never strays too far from the path.

Banhart’s funky ode to personal growth and love “Theme for a Taiwanese Woman in Lime Green” presents not only a mouthful of a title, but also the thoughts of a man who wants to love this mysterious woman, but he is in a hurry and has to go. “There’s no one in the world that I love, and that no one is you,” Banhart whispers. He cannot wait for the moment to be over so he can “close [his] mouth and not say a thing.” However, filled with bottled-up passion, he croons, “Love’s making me sing.”

The whimsical and campy feel of “Mourner’s Dance” calls to mind the opening sequence of the show “Twin Peaks.” Combined with trippy lyrics, this makes for a classic Devendra Banhart track.

Not everyone is going to be pleased with “Ape in Pink Marble,” especially those who were hoping for something with a little more oomph. What the album provides to listeners is a deeper understanding of the man behind the curtain. Shying away from politically infused lyrics, the album is a vibrant 13-track quilt of Banhart’s innermost thoughts and ponderings.

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