Devendra Banhart & Noah Georgeson | Refuge - CD
Release date: 20.08.2021
**Please note : pre-orders will be shipped out within 2 - 4 weeks
Last spring, Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson started to make a record that was like nothing they had made before — an ambient album that would be both a haven from a suddenly terrified world and a heartfelt musical dialogue between two men who have been friends and collaborators for over two decades. Refuge is an album of profound meditative beauty which offers the listener a much-needed sense of peace and renewal. But while it was recorded in 2020 its roots go back much further — all the way to the start of their friendship and, beyond that, to the shared sounds and ethics of their childhoods.
"When the pandemic began, we realised we needed to make this record," Devendra says. "But we've been talking about it for so long. It's kind of been 20 years in the making."
Devendra and Noah met on the night of Halloween, 1999. Noah lived on Castro Street, the epicentre of San Francisco's Halloween celebrations, so their first encounter was in costume. "He was wearing a skirt and I was dressed as Bjorn Borg," Noah remembers. "I wasn't sure if this was Halloween or just him and it was the same for me. His first impression was that I was a French drug dealer." Having established that he was not, in fact, a French drug dealer, they became fast friends.
Noah, whose production and mixing credits include Joanna Newsom and the Strokes, came on board as co-producer of Devendra's 2005 album Cripple Crow and they have been working together ever since.
Devendra grew up in Venezuela while Noah, six years older, is a native of Nevada City, California. But as they got to know each other, they realised that they had a similar history in the New Age subculture of the 1980s: a world of meditation, Eastern music, the Bhagavad Gita and The Whole Earth Catalog. Childhood memories were coloured by the aromas of health food stores and the sound of New Age labels like Windham Hill Records.
It was while making Devendra's 2019 album Ma that the pair finally decided to make their ambient record. At one point there was a rather expensive plan to travel around capturing "natural sounds of the dying world," but the global lockdown in March 2020 demanded a radical change of strategy. Even though they only live a short drive away from each other in Los Angeles, they were unable to meet, so Devendra and Noah had to record their tracks separately and weave them together remotely. "It feels like the most intimate thing we've done but it's the first time we haven't been in the same studio," Devendra says. "This would be the only record we could possibly make like this."
Despite complicating logistics, 2020 created an emotional craving for music with this contemplative, therapeutic quality. "It's been such an uncertain, frightening time," Devendra says. "I was turning more than ever to ambient music, particularly Harold Budd.
"For us, it's not specifically about the last year but it necessarily became about that in a way because of how we had to make it," Noah says, "and it's probably going to resonate that way."
The two men approach a similar mood from very different compositional angles, ranging from weightless synth drones to luminous lattices of woodwind and strings.