DEVENDRA BAN­HART Records) What Will We Be (Reprise

Pasatiempo - - Cd Reviews -

Since splash­ing on the na­tional scene with con­sec­u­tive acous­tic records in 2004, Devendra Ban­hart has taken flak for di­ver­si­fy­ing his port­fo­lio and stretch­ing out to other gen­res. It’s mostly jus­ti­fi­able, both be­cause his self-ed­i­tor isn’t that strict and be­cause we know how good he can be when he’s stir­ring his slinky, folky mood and not chas­ing a hun­dred dif­fer­ent muses like they’re a flock of but­ter­flies. WhatWil­lWe Be im­me­di­ately rinses the taste of the over­wrought Smokey Rolls Down Thun­der Canyon from our mouths with “Can’t Help But Smil­ing,” an up­lift­ing, silky blend of ex­otic in­stru­men­ta­tion and trop­i­cal rhythms. It’s smooth sail­ing through the al­bum’s woozy, ten­der first half, but by the time we get to the disco of “16th and Va­len­cia, Roxy Mu­sic,” the Led Zep­pelin rock of “Rats,” and the Nina Si­mone jazz of “Maria Lionza” in lengthy con­sec­u­tive tracks, it’s clear he’s wan­dered too far off the map once more. He doesn’t need to re­treat to the com­forts of his acous­tic gui­tar (the bouncy, plugged-in “Baby” is among the best tracks), but some of his more ex­per­i­men­tal ex­cur­sions should be saved for an odds-and-sods com­pi­la­tion later in his ca­reer. Lately, it seems like his whole ca­reer is one big odd-and-sods com­pi­la­tion.

— Robert Ben­ziker

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