Devendra Banhart seems to have faced a somewhat unfortunate fate with his albums. As usually the case for someone in his place; when you start with albums as Oh Me Oh My and Rejoicing in the Hands, it seems almost inescapable to find interest waning as you expand to different styles. Ape In Pink Marble, however, might just be the album long-term Banhart fans have been waiting for, even if it might not capture everybody else’s attention.
Ape In Pink Marble hearkens back to the simpler times of Banhart’s music. Songs are extremely minimal, often just involving a single acoustic guitar or drum machine rather than going all-out with arrangements. In the case of Linda, it even fills most of its five minute run time with silence, dipping into complete nothing between growingly distant guitar strumming. It seeks to add variety by playing around with chords more than anything, taking on a reggae style in Mara and something jazzier in Theme for a Taiwanese Woman in Lime Green; the latter accentuates it with sweeping strings throughout the song, but otherwise it’s simply a guitar in the associated style.
It does pick up the pace on a few occasions, with Fig in Leather coming as close to a fully produced song as the album ever does, mostly relying around drum machines and synths still, but featuring a full-fledged poppy beat behind Banhart’s continued hushed vocals. Fancy Man does the same, though in a soft rock style instead of pop. They manage to feel like a piece of the puzzle anyway despite being somewhat out of place, but are very much the outliers in the album, even as it keeps his unique style of lyricism across it all.
As such, for your average listener, Ape In Pink Marble might be somewhat harder to get into. It’s very much in line with his earlier lo-fi style, keeping it folksy and simpler in arrangements even as he moves into other genres for variety’s sake, and this keeps it from being too boring to carry itself. However, this is definitely an album for dedicated long-term Devendra Banhart fans, and little else.