Inner contemplation, mindfulness and peace of mind have probably been sought by many people lately – of course, during lockdown one is often thrown back on oneself and tends to look inward when one is not allowed out. The fact that Devendra Banhart, together with his longtime producer Noah Georgeson, has now recorded a flawless New Age album with »Refuge« fits wonderfully into our time, but is surprising because of its consistency. Although Banhart has always been spiritually inclined and has been practicing Buddhism for years, these 12 tracks of fragile piano arpeggios, sacred ambient surfaces, nature sounds and cinematic strings have absolutely nothing in common with his Freak Folk beginnings or his subsequent turn to Psych Pop. Not even Devendra Banhart’s charismatic voice is heard during the one-hour playing time. Instead, Sharon Salzberg, who first popularized the concept of mindfulness in the West, adds a short guided meditation at the end of »Sky Burial«. Fittingly, two tracks appear exclusively on the sleep and meditation app Calm. But »Refuge« submits neither to the strict schematics of ambient nor to the pure functionalism of background or meditation music. Self-absorption in the usual euphony doesn’t last long here, because the compositions have too many ideas and surprising twists ready for that. You can come down and listen inwardly with »Refuge« wonderfully, but you should always keep your ears pricked.
Carlos Niño & Friends
(I’m Just) Chillin’, On Fire