Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Ape in Pink Marble is fare for the enlightened: To stomach it requires the patience of a saint. This is Devendra Banhart’s ninth album over a nearly 15 year career. Ape in Pink Marble is ever sincere, and, as always, Banhart has managed to cohere the jumble of genre influences packaged as “freak folk.” Here, though, cohesion might be his downfall. Coming after Mala (2013), especially, Ape is disappointingly demure. The album is a lonely, wearying journey with a sickly sweet center. Banhart’s vocals are wispier than usual, leaving little to hold onto. It does gain brief oomph in “Lucky,” which otherwise sounds much like the other sleepy songs. The opening track, “Middle Names,” sets Ape in Pink Marble’s overarching tone. There’s empty space here. Notes warp like a music box winding down, until they run flat. Much of the album feels this way: sepia-toned, already a memory. Into the lull are lumped a few bouncier tracks: “Fancy Man,” “Fig in Leather,” “Jon Lends a Hand,” “Theme for a Taiwanese Woman in Lime Green” and “Souvenirs” all lean toward British folk rock insipidity, mashed with island vibes. They’re playful in a precocious way, with funny, thought-through and in-on-the-joke lyrics that don’t secure them as less icky listening. “Jon Lends a Hand” distinguishes itself by a particularly cloying rhyme scheme. “Souvenirs” opens, “Welcome to the hotel in California”; its central missive, “‘Cause when love shows its face, the rest just falls into place.” After “Souvenirs,” Banhart returns to his goal of tranquilizing his audience. Listening through to the end of Ape is like fighting against a powerful narcotic. “Mourner’s Dance,” one hopes, is under consideration for the new “Twin Peaks” soundtrack, wallowing in eerie synth. In “Linda,” we’re forlorn again: “I’m a lonely woman/ Alone in the world/ Drifting through town,” Bahnhart sings. It’s a satisfyingly drowsy experience, like having wandered long in search of a bed. But around minute three, Banhart asks for too much. An electric guitar strums once. Then silence. A strum. Silence. And on and on for over a minute. Such stunts are better left to the John Cages of the world. At this point, Ape becomes a tired joke. The closing track, “Celebration,” is a purposefully ironic snooze-fest. Its beachy guitar evokes the longest surf movie sunset ever filmed. It might be naïve to complain that Banhart’s albums are too long. Sure, an album these days is a digital grab bag – take a song here, a song there. But that doesn’t mean it’s off the hook as a whole. Instead, every album has to pass a double test: each song good enough to stand alone, the album still palatable – hopefully more than that – when consumed in its entirety. That each of the songs on Ape encapsulates the whole is fine; that any track might as well be the other is not. The exception is Saturday Night, a truly good tune. It upholds the theory of the album, while the sexier vocals and a decent, low-key beat do what music can and should do: viscerally effect.