Refuge is an album like nothing the magnetic singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart has made before. In this new ambient project with Banhart’s long-time, Grammy-winning producer and sometime co-writer Noah Georgeson, there’s none of the singular, esoteric folk sound, the fingerpicked guitar, or striking, screwy vocals that made Banhart’s name.
Fluidly and beautifully weaving together a trellis of woodwind and strings, with floaty, weightless synth drones, Refuge is an ambient gem that marries the two very different compositional angles of its composers. It’s a subtly entrancing collection of tracks, comprising harp, dreamy pedal steel, and piano, alongside field recordings of Nepali Buddhist ceremonies on ‘Asura Cave’, and a mantra recited by Banhart’s Bhutanese teacher, Neten Chokling Rinpoche.
Deep Listening legends Pauline Oliveros and Lou Harrison are spiritual touchstones for this album, and like the incredible compositions of the mavericks it’s inspired by, Refuge possesses the kind of command that can envelop you, wherever you might be. There’s a conscious fascination here with rhythms and sounds that might induce the kind of internal psychological space needed in people to feel a sense of renewal. In the deepest chaos, Refuge is an ideal record to become submerged in.
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