Following up his dark and cozy 2016 LP Ape in Pink Marble, Devendra Banhart is back with a new album, Ma, set for release Sept. 13 via Nonesuch.
Banhart is also giving us a taste of what’s to come with a video for his first single, “Kantori Ongaku,” which means “country music” in Japanese.
The title is a clear nod at experimental pop legend Haruomi Hosono from the influential and ever-innovative electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra.
The surreal, Japanese-inspired video includes a scruffy horse, intricate makeup looks and some very, very, very long hair in a colorful, abstract arrangement.
“The song’s video features a full circle journey of vignettes that play on the dream-like quality of intimate activities,” a press release explains.
Heavily folk with a dash of a boogie vibe, “Kantori Ongaku” aligns closely with Banhart’s more recent wispy, non-confrontational, guitar-laden sonic tradition, with a pop of horns trumpeting in the background.
Always favoring organic sounds, Banhart promises to continue weaving webs of acoustic guitar layered under vocals, and spun with strings, woodwinds, brass and keyboards on his third LP for Nonesuch.
While the instrumentation and acoustic style of Ma will be similar to Banhart’s previous works, the album will still be a step in a new direction.
“Ma, bursting with tender, autobiographical vignettes, displays a shift from the sonic experimentation of his previous albums to an intricate, captivating story-telling and emotional intimacy,” the album’s announcement notes.
Borne from a recording session with frequent collaborator Noah Georgeson at a temple in Kyoto, Japan, Ma excavates the unconditional nature of maternal love, as well as the desire to nurture someone, pass down wisdom and form a connection between mother and child—as well as the result of breaking that precious bond.
“Banhart doesn’t approach the album’s maternal theme in a literal way; rather, by contemplating it, alluding to it, regarding the concept of motherhood from different angles, he has fashioned an album of multiple, intertwining narratives,” the album announcement tells us.
An autobiographical take on life and death, the album also explores the precarious state of the world, but making sure to intersperse such somber, melancholic moments with something a bit more lighthearted.
Another key detail makes Ma stand out among Banhart’s previous works. Three tracks off Ma will be in Spanish and one in Portuguese.
Concerned about the poverty in the country of his childhood, Venezuela, Banhart was drawn to write in Spanish—for his motherland.
“My brother is in Venezuela, my cousins, my aunts and uncles,” he said in a statement. “They are just holding their breath, in gridlock standstill. There’s this helplessness.This place that has been a mother to you, that you’re a mother to as well, and it’s suffering so much.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the video for “Kantori Ongaku” (dir. Juliana and Nicky Giraffe) also includes a brief infomercial requesting donations to the I Love Venezuela Foundation.
Once at the forefront of early 2000s freak-folk in a position cemented by his idiosyncratic breakthrough album Rejoicing in the Hands, Banhart now continues to trade in his heavy experimentation with a more accessible, straightforward sound and a greater focus on storytelling over serving up funky arrangements.
Give the new single a listen below, and check out the album artwork, tracklist and Banhart’s tour dates further down.
Ma Album Art:
01. Is This Nice?
02. Kantori Ongaku
06. Now All Gone .
07. Love Song
08. Abre Las Manos
09. Taking a Page
10. October 12
11. My Boyfriend’s In The Band
12. The Lost Coast
13. Will I See You Tonight?
Devendra Banhart North American Tour Dates:
27 – Dana Point, Calif. @ OHANA Festival
15 – Ventura, Calif. @ The Majestic Ventura Theater
16 – San Francisco, Calif. @ The Fillmore
18 – Portland, Ore. @ Crystal Ballroom
19 – Seattle, Wash. @ Moore Theatre
20 – Eugene, Ore. @ WOW Hall ^
22 – Berkeley, Calif. @ The UC Theatre
24 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Theatre at Ace Hotel
25 – Santa Ana, Calif. @ The Yost Theater
26/ – San Diego, Calif. @ The Observatory North Park
27 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ Crescent Ballroom
30 – Boulder, Colo. @ Boulder Theater *
01 – Omaha, Neb. @ The Slowdown *
02 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ Varsity Theater *
03 – Chicago, Ill. @ Thalia Hall *
05 – Memphis, Tenn. @ The Hi Tone *
07 – Austin, Texas @ Stubbs (Levitation)
23 – Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico @ Tecate Bajio Festival
30 – Detroit, Mich. @ Museum of Contemporary Art *
01 – Toronto, Ont. @ Danforth Music Hall *
03 – Montreal, Que. @ The Olympia *
04 – Boston, Mass. @ The Wilbur *
05 – Brooklyn, N.Y. @ Brooklyn Steel *
07 – Washington, D.C. @ 930 Club *
08 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Union Transfer *
(* w/ Black Belt Eagle Scout)
(^ w/ Daniel Higgs)