Kyp Malone of the independent rock band, TV on the Radio, worked on a project that was unexpected and released this as his solo album, Rain Machine, in 2009. Malone uses elements from the musical style of TV on the Radio, and incorporates his own ideas and thoughts much more in depth on his solo effort. He explores many of the sounds and themes that were found on releases of his previous projects. Malone played almost every instrument on this record, making it an interesting listen to what he wants to convey in his music. This record is different from any of his previous efforts in that it infuses acoustic sounds into the music rather than relying heavily on electric guitars.
The beginning, “Intro”, starts the album off with percussion and some whistling in the background. It builds up as the listener is not sure what to expect. Then it flows into the next track, “Give Blood”. This song kicks off the album with a groove featuring mostly a percussion backbeat and a fuzzy guitar sound. The track is layered with several vocals including other members of the band. I had the opportunity to watch Kyp Malone perform his music as he opened for The Pixies at the Hollywood Palladium on November of 2009. “Give Blood” was much more engaging when it was performed live. There was much more intensity to the music than can be heard on the studio version. The next rack, “New Last Name”, brings the album to a soft atmosphere. This is in my opinion, the most beautiful cut from the album. The dynamic fluctuation of the guitars brings the track a calm flow. The percussion then comes in giving a soft beat, which is apt to the overall feeling. The tambourine and percussion is featured more prominently towards the end of the track, giving it a nice ending. “Smiling Black Faces”, is the next track that has gospel warmth to it along with political commentary. “Driftwood Heart” has a very acoustic and tranquil feel with an influence of Eastern sounds. There are also some bluegrass elements evident on the track. “Hold Your Holy” switches the albums flow to a more upbeat sound, incorporating influences of spirituality. “Desperate Bitch”, boils down the tempo once again into a flow of soft electric guitar and percussion. “Love Won’t Save You”, exemplifies Malone’s experimentation with freedom exploring issues that do not lead to salvation. This track is a little weak and also becomes tedious at certain moments. The next track, “Free Ride”, picks up with the pace with prominent strumming of Malone’s acoustic guitar. “Leave The Lights On” continues with the calm flow of the previous tracks with various layers of vocals. The last track, “Winter Song”, is similar to “Driftwood Heart” with a mixture of bluegrass and Eastern influences. The song begins soft and gradually become more climatic, making is a perfect closure to the album. Overall, Malone cannot be pinpointed in terms of what music he performs here. There are various textures that make this album special. He relies mostly on layered vocals with various dynamics and soft quarter notes from his guitar. He uses these elements in different ways, making Rain Machine a must listen for fans of his band, TV on the Radio, or for people who just want to enjoy new and interesting music.
It is clearly evident that Kyp Malone has established himself as a solo artist. Rain Machine may not be as accessible as his work in other projects. Yet, the album has a flow to it that makes the tracks feel connected in some ways. There are times throughout the album that the music becomes tedious, but overall, there is a solid introduction and conclusion overall. The strongest tracks on the album are “Give Blood” and “New Last Name”. “Give Blood” being the most aggressive and upbeat side of the spectrum whereas “New Last Name” is the most serene and peaceful cut from the album. Fans of TV on the Radio would definitely enjoy this, as well as audiences who enjoy independent folk music. If given a chance, I would highly recommend people to attend a solo performance of his, if Malone will ever have one again in the future.
– Amirata Mahallati