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This weekend: TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone goes solo with Rain Machine

September 24, 2009 |  6:51 am


When Kyp Malone writes a love song, he's not necessarily one to get swept up in the emotion. The artist -- best known as one-fifth of adventurous Brooklyn rockers TV on the Radio -- takes a more reflective approach.

"Hold Your Holy" arrives at the midpoint of the debut album from Malone's solo project, which he has given the moniker Rain Machine. The song uses a gospel-inflected keyboard as a starting point, but its ultimate direction, like many of the 10 songs on the self-titled album, isn't easily mapped. A rhythmic march explodes into a stutter, and guitars dress the verses rather than lead them. Malone dips into a falsetto, but abruptly jumps out of, as if he's caught in a a tug of war with the lustful passion expressed in the lyrics.

"One of those most hackneyed subjects in popular music is wanting to dance with someone you’re attracted to," Malone tells Pop & Hiss. "I don’t think it’s because of any kind of lack of creativity on the part of people who write the songs. I feel like it’s reflecting something that has been integral to the human experience for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.

"Not the romanticized sock-hop version of it," he continues, "but the integration of dance and music is something that kept music as a participatory form ,and kept music integrated into the communities. I’m kind of trying to find my version of that song. I like happy poppy songs. I just don’t always have them in my head."

Those familiar with Malone's resume may not necessarily expect them to be there, either. TV on the Radio's 2008 effort "Dear Science" was one of the best-reviewed albums of the year, but also a bit a paranoid one. There's plenty of melodies on it, but they're shrouded in dense, sometimes foreboding, electronic-laced production.

The mood initially struck by Rain Machine isn't any lighter, but it is a bit more organic, perhaps a bit more primal. The beats on "Give Blood" topple over one another, the sound of jungle rhythms dropped off in a city alleyway, and "Smiling Black Faces" is a four-minute tease, with notes and beats raising the tension by flirting with familiar sounds, but staying just left of them. It's one of the many songs Malone says haven't been easy to replicate live (Rain Machine will be in Los Angeles for two shows this weekend).

"There’s a lot of rhythms happening, and it all happened very loosely and in a messy way," Malone says. "That was actually a song where I was working with an engineer and a mixer, and he really wanted to fix it. It was so rambling and sloppy. At first, I let him try to do what he wanted to do, but it started sucking the life out of it. So we scratched and went back to square one, leaving it as it was.

Malone's day job was also a source of inspiration.

Some of the Rain Machine songs date as far back as 2003. Malone says his writing process here was vastly different from his approach with TV on the Radio -- a band he says composes primarily in his studio.

Rain Machine represents a creative break from working within the TV on the Radio confines. Says Malone, "TV on the Radio has met with a lot of critical success, and it made me nervous to step out on my own, but at the same time, all the advice I ever give to any of my friends who have their creative work put out to a broader audience is to pay as little attention to any criticism -- positive or negative -- as possible. It’s just a distraction."

TV on the Radio will be on hiatus for the remainder of this year, as well as the foreseeable future. Malone doesn't know exactly when TV on the Radio will reconvene to record an album.

"I know for sure that TV On the Radio has not achieved its full potential, musically," he says. "We can outdo what we’ve done. I hope we have the opportunity to do it. We have more to learn from one another."

In the meantime, Malone isn't shy about examining what it means to live a life having achieved a moderate amount of fame. "New Last Name" strikes a tempered, almost defeated mood, where beats are fashioned out of scraped rocks. But the song builds to a jarring, defiant statement of individuality, with the narrator embracing a derogatory statement for his own.

"I feel only fortunate to be a part of the creative project that is TV on the Radio," Malone says. "That being said, I also have a life, a community and an existence outside of it. Touring all the time and being in a group, and representing that group -- as we all do in the band -- it can get tiresome to have your identity boiled down to a creative project. My name isn’t, ‘Hey, TV on the Radio,’ which is what I hear on a regular basis where people know us. If it’s that way for me, what is midlevel success, then what ... was Michael Jackson’s life like? It touches on that a little bit."

-- Todd Martens

Rain Machine will perform Friday night at the Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door. Malone will also appear at the Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. The show is free. More information can be found here.

Photo credit: Eric Martin