Each time I saw the words Rain Machine scrawled across my computer screen or heard them out of someone’s lips, it always took me a minute or two to register whom it was. Perhaps that was exactly what Kyp Malone had intended – to have his first solo release, if only for a few minutes, unburdened with his own name and that of his band, TV on the Radio. Whatever the reason, it’s a good tactic as Rain Machine is not like a TV on the Radio album. Yes, there are similarities (it’d be impossible to have no similarities), but Rain Machine is a different animal. Deeply personal, Malone subverts expectations for a Dear Science 2.0 and crafts an album that is gorgeous, indulgent, and profoundly expressive.
Like many solo endeavors Rain Machine allows Malone to pursue different paths, different sounds from TV on the Radio. The album starts with an innocuous and playful whistle, giving way to the only track that remotely resembles a TV on the Radio track, “Give Blood.” Smoldering with ragged beats, “Give Blood” is a wonderfully manic song that wouldn’t seem out of place on Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes. The rest of the album takes you on a different journey – one that is quiet, meandering and at times, overindulgent. Yet at I sat and listened to each track, I was touched by how unpredictably gorgeous they were and I found myself moved by them.
The atmospheric sparseness of tracks like “New Last Name” or “Desperate Bitch” become lovely and simple backdrops for Malone’s emotional, blues-tinged voice. It’s in Malone’s voice that I hear the anger, the frustration, and the longing. TV on the Radio never shied away from race in their music, but here Malone is able to grapple with it in a way that takes advantages of is meandering, narrative style of writing. “Smiling Black Faces” features harrowing imagery (“bodies strung like tanning hides/ Oh, and the fly-covered babies“) as he ties in together various narratives, chief among them the shooting of Sean Bell, to a riveting, awe-inspiring and cathartic track. Tracks like “Smiling Black Faces” and “New Last Name” (referring the history of slave names) are powerful and refreshing in the face of the largely white indie rock community.
Rain Machine isn’t like TV on the Radio albums – there are similar elements yet it doesn’t feel like a TV on the Radio album. There is something unreined in these songs, it’s clear that Malone is allowing his muse, his music to take him where it will. Tracks unspool at 6-8 minutes and at times it becomes tedious, but they are never uninteresting and always beautiful and mesmerizing. Malone’s songs are unpredictable and he is a captivating songwriter but it’s not for everyone. For those expecting the tight, dirty energy of TV on the Radio songs will likely be disappointed, but for those approaching the album with an open mind, Malone’s openness becomes profoundly moving and beautiful.
Stream: “Smiling Black Faces”