Today, acclaimed artists Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson are thrilled to unveil two more tracks from their forthcoming collaborative ambient album, Refuge, out via Secretly Group’s Friends Of… series via Dead Oceans on August 13. The songs, called “A Cat” and “Aran In Repose” respectively, are full of meditative, sparkling sounds. “A Cat,” which features Vetiver’s Jeremy Harris, as well as spiritual teacher and founder of the Escuela Valores Divinos Sri Mataji Shaktiananda, buoys with synth and piano washes. “Aran In Repose” unfolds across seven minutes into soft orchestration with a harp melody courtesy of Mary Lattimore. A video for both songs, directed by Nicky Giraffe and Juliana Giraffe, is also out today- a meditative portrayal of two ancient beings preparing offerings for the slime mold of life.
In celebration of Refuge’s release, the Getty Center in Los Angeles will be hosting a special listening experience on August 21 and 22 as part of the Ever Present series – in the museum’s central garden designed by Robert Irwin. Streaming through a custom sound system set up throughout the Central Garden’s circular pathways, the music will be looping throughout the weekend to make room for meandering and contemplation, and a limited edition zine focused on the concept of Refuge made in collaboration with the Getty will be available to attendees.
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 artists who have been friends and collaborators for over two decades. The resultant Refuge is an album of profound meditative beauty which offers the listener a much-needed sense of peace and renewal.
Written and recorded separately during 2020, and then seamlessly woven together, the album features a cast of friends and icons from the realm of meditation and mindfulness. The two artists approach a similar mood from very different compositional angles, ranging from weightless synth drones to luminous lattices of woodwind and strings. As the tracks took shape, the duo asked musicians in their circle to record parts remotely: Mary Lattimore on harp, Nicole Lawrence on pedal steel, Tyler Cash on piano, Todd Dahlhoff on bass, Vetiver’s Jeremy Harris on synthesizer and additional production, and David Ralicke on brass and woodwind.
Devendra, who has been studying Vajrayana Buddhism for the last decade, invited the contributions from spiritual teachers. World renowned teacher and meditation pioneer Sharon Salzberg (“she’s one of the people who introduced the word ‘mindfulness’ to the west”, explains Devendra) adds a little guided meditation to “Sky Burial”, spiritual teacher and founder of the Escuela Valores Divinos Sri Mataji Shaktiananda appears on “A Cat”, and Devendra’s own Bhutanese teacher Neten Chokling Rinpoche recites a mantra at the end of “Asura Cave”, which also features field recordings of Buddhist ceremonies Devendra gathered in Nepal.
Devendra and Noah met on the night of Halloween 1999 during festivities on San Francisco’s Castro Street. Due to the holiday, their first encounter was in costume and Devendra mistook Noah’s Bjorn Borg outfit as something suggesting 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’ve 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 colored by the aromas of health food stores and the sound of New Age labels like Windham Hill Records.
It was while making Devendra’s last album, Ma, in 2019 that the pair finally decided to make their ambient record. Even though they only live a short drive away from each other in Los Angeles, the pandemic meant they were unable to meet, so Devendra and Noah had to work remotely before sharing their work with one another, a process they describe as “the most intimate thing we’ve done…This would be the only record we could possibly make like this.”
Inspired by both memories of the past and the needs of the present, Refuge is an act of companionship and generosity which gives the listener room to breathe. “We’re hoping to create a sense of comfort and coming back to the moment,” Devendra says. “It’s really important to have a little bit of space between us and our anxieties and impulses. What you do with that space is up to you.”