The first time I laid eyes on Devendra Banhart was back in my teens when coming back from the local half cut and hoping to catch a bit of Jools Holland. The cheeky chap Holland was waltzing around the floor like he usually does, squeekily enthusing over each act. The show then cut to the middle of the stage floor, Holland promising "a wondering, beautiful, psychedelic minstrel". Despite looking like the evil witch girl from 1973 film Don't Look Now, Banhart performed Sight To Behold on some sort of Aladdin style persian rug, surrounded by candles and an entranced audience.
Alas I was late to the phenomenon that was/is Banhart. Back in 2004, America became obsessed with him and a new genre, dubbed Freak Folk. The New York Times published an article, describing Banhart as "the most prominent of a highly idealistic pack of young musicians whose music is quiet, soothing and childlike, their lyrics fantastic, surreal and free of the slightest trace of irony." It is also interesting to read that they portray him as some sort of Charles Manson (a thought never lost on me) who has his own harem of musicians including Animal Collective, The Dodos and Vetiver.
After becoming the poster boy for a new but slightly rehashed genre and releasing two albums in a year, the American/Venezuelan became rankled with the press attention and retreated for another year. Whilst he was away, the US market was still keen milk the new found fame, Orange using "Little Yellow Spider" in their ads and the Hollywood remake of The Hills Have Eyes II eerily channeling "Insect Eyes" in the trailer .
The past few years have expectedly been no different, releasing solo albums such as Cripple Crow, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon and readying What Will Be Will Be. Back in 2004, the music press wrote that musicians flocked to him, now it seems it is the other way round. Banhart has lended his talents to the Megapuss album, remixed Oasis and Phoenix tracks and performs regularly on Beck's Record Club. Just last week, papers, magazines and blogs were rife with rumours that he and Wu-Tang legend The GZA were going to record an album out of the fact GZA remixed Banharts new single, "Baby".
Released on October 26th, What Will Be Will Be is his debut release for a major label, Warners. Banhart himself joked "it was shocking that a major would want anything to do with me". Reading press for the new album, he has been his usual verging on the insane self. Snippets include telling Uncut that he'd "like to own Paul McCartney's foreskin" and that "Michael Jackson belongs to the same race of 'future' people who built the pyramids and Stonehenge". It is clear listening to the new tracks such as "Baby" and "Angelika" that he has shed his rustic sheen and is easily his most polished record to date. Unsurprisingly and unfortunately there is a couple of 'filler' tracks that have always followed Banhart's career but "What Will Be Will Be" is a reassuring case that he is America's most creative and curious artist.