Devendra Banhart, ‘Mala’

The more Devendra Banhart makes music, the more he loosens his grip on it. That’s a good thing. When he emerged a decade ago as a leader of the freak-folk movement, he seemed destined to be a casualty of that scene. But in recent years he has blossomed into a panoramic songwriter more prone to take chances. “Mala,” which marks his debut on Nonesuch Records, is his latest batch of songs that aren’t fully invested in any particular genre, but rather they’re all about mood. It’s music for sun-kissed beach days that turn into rainy nights. He bounces from brooding ballads (“Daniel”) to lounge-funk (“Für Hildegard Von Bingen”) to electro-pop (“Cristobal Risquez”) to acoustic instrumentals (“The Ballad of Keenan Milton”). There’s a touch of psychedelia lurking in “Hatchet Wound” and “Taurobolium,” and Banhart duets with his fiancee on “Your Fine Petting Duck,” presenting a he-said-she-said account of their relationship. For all its detours, this is a record intoxicated by its own grooves — silken, sexy, a little aimless, and a lot of fun. (Out Tuesday)
James Reed

ESSENTIAL “Für Hildegard Von Bingen”