Though he's kept busy with a variety of film and art projects, Devendra Banhart hasn't put out a new studio album since 2009's "What Will We Be" -- a relative eternity for the once-prolific freak-folk prince, who recently moved from Los Angeles to New York.
That's set to change March 12 with the release of Mala," Banhart's debut for Nonesuch Records following a brief stint at Reprise. (The title means "small" in Serbian, a nod to the heritage of his fiancée, Ana Kras.) Working with guitarist Noah Georgeson, the singer laid down the 14-track set at his former home here, using a vintage Tascam recorder he found in a pawn shop.
"A lot of early hip-hop had been made on [the Tascam]," Banhart said in a statement. "And knowing my songs are not hip-hop whatsoever, we thought it would be interesting to see how these kinds of songs would sound on equipment that was used to record our favorite rap."
Other players on the album include Beck's bassist, Bram Inscore, and Josiah Steinbrick, who's played with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Boom Bip.
Pitchfork is streaming a cut from the record, "Für Hildegard von Bingen," reportedly inspired by -- what else? -- a 12th-century German mystic.
"In my head, there was this little movie, an alternate universe, I guess," Banhart said. "Hildegard is sequestered in her cloister, and one day she gets a VHS cassette and it's the prime era of the MTV VJ, and she just goes wild. 'That's it for me,' she says. 'That's how I'm going to get my message across.' So she escapes the cloister and becomes a VJ."