TVOTR’s Kyp Malone’s side project offers flashes of brilliance.
Charles Ubaghs 2009
Side projects are the equivalent of an aural gap year for musicians; a chance for the artist in question to scratch a creative itch before returning to the humdrum of their daily routine. The results are rarely memorable and yet a growing number of blogger-friendly indie musicians are stepping out on their own to create records equalling, if not occasionally surpassing, the output of their nine-to-fives. Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen and The Horrors’ Rhys Webb and Tom Cowan have all released noteworthy side projects and solo albums in the last few years.
Next up for a solo excursion is Kyp Malone of lauded Brooklyn art rockers TV on the Radio. The thickly bearded musician has been busy of late – alongside TVOTR he’s also recorded an album with New York noise-rockers Iran and produced the latest from flannel troubadour Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. Not satisfied with those extra-curricular activities, he has written and recorded a solo record under the name of Rain Machine – a moniker reportedly chosen because it looks nicer on a T-shirt than ‘Kyp Malone’.
Prosaically described by the Brooklyn resident as “… a reflection of a variety of emotions and situations real and imagined – some rhythm, some rhyme”, Rain Machine’s sprawling sweep of songs reveals an artist blessed and equally cursed by an insatiable need for passionate expression.
Starting with a soft whistle, Malone sticks close to TVOTR’s art template with the soul-punk blast of Give Blood, before slowing down the tempo with New Last Name and the bouncing lament of Smiling Black Faces. It’s a powerful opening salvo that’ll appeal to fans of his day job, but Malone’s finely tuned machine begins to stall as he attempts to shift gears at the midway point. Alternating between upbeat nu-folk elegance, acoustic finger-picking and the twang of a lone electric guitar, the final third of the record veers from haunting (Leave the Lights On) to boorish noodling (Love Won’t Save You, Winter Song) with the majority of the songs extending past the eight-minute mark as they slowly crumble into a self-indulgent heap.
Unlikely to thrust its creator out of the shadow of TVOTR, Rain Machine’s peaks may offer flashes of brilliance, but they’re quickly clouded out by the album’s numerous flaws.