The hiss of four-track airs may have been scrubbed off of Devendra Banhart’s follow-up to his lo-fi Oh Me Oh My . . . debut, but plenty of grimy atmosphere remains. Recorded down in muggy-buggy ‘Bama mud in 12-hour marathons, Rejoicing in the Hands flutters between warbling whimsy and dirty fingernails. You get 16/57ths of the songs he originally submitted (with another 16/57ths due in September).
His song-y motes get buffed to a sheen by cello, drums, and marimba, courtesy of Michael Gira’s Angels of Light, coating them into pearls (before, Swans). Sometimes it’s just clean picking and that old, weird (South) America of his voice. Watery, lemony, brassy, froggy, foggy, wispy, slippery, it’s mostly Marc Bolan-y, even when singing baloney lyrics about Elvis’s hit discography. Previously invoking “men” like Tiny Tim and Syd Barrett, Devendra’s more feminine turns now conjure the grittier Karen Dalton and uh . . . Ethel Merman?
Writhing underneath are uncountable hands, extraneous phalanges, datable teeth, and hair as insect eyes, to say nothing of the throat of English sprite Vashti Bunyan. In the glorious 1:41 title track, hers is a voice from the mists after three decades gone. Perhaps Banhart’s recent move west will bring back the similarly vaporous psy-chanteuse Linda Perhacs?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 27, 2004