Rain Machine | s/t (Anti- Records)

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Though it can be plodding, and the lyrics can be hard to understand, the record showcases one of the best voices and songwriters in indie rock today.
 
  
 
 
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Anyone who finds the singer-songwriter set to be a little tame and undifferentiated should check out Rain Machine.  Rain Machine is the solo project of Kyp Malone - singer, guitarist and co-songwriter for critical darlings TV on the Radio - and its self-titled album was released by Anti- Records on September 22.
 
Fans of TVotR will be familiar with Rain Machine’s primary instrument: Malone’s flexible and soulful voice. He carries meaning and expression to all of the album’s 11 tracks; belting, crooning, yelling and falsettoing, often within a single track.
 
However, the biggest differences are the rest of his instruments.  While TVotR is known for its buzzsaw guitars and layers of white noise atop its melodies, Rain Machine opts for a more straightforward approach.  Malone employs a bevy of acoustic and electric instruments (almost all of which he plays on the record) to support his voice and chooses to record them as naturally as possible. Many parts, as on album closer "Winter Song," feel as if Malone is singing specifically to the listener in an empty room with just an acoustic guitar. 
 
Also different from Malone’s other band is its overall mood.  Instead of the usual overdriven rock of TVoTR broken up by a few ballads, most of Malone’s songs are slow, either gentle or pensive. Several build into an uplifting climax — a TV on the Radio trope — but for the most part the record remains understated compared to TVotR’s bombast.
 
The only exception and perhaps the best song here, is the first full song “Give Blood.” After a whistling and tribal drum duet intro, the lead track starts the album-proper off with a frenetic fuzzed out guitar, female backing vocals, and metaphorical lyrics about the artist in relation to his audience.  Soon though, the album settles into a slower, mellower mood, which can be plodding but usually succeeds through Malone’s voice and lyrics. While the lyrics are often opaque, they are constantly evocative, with several great turns of phrase.
 
Another standout track, “Smiling Black Faces,” is a protest song that discusses race artfully and stirringly, which is no small feat. Despite evoking the murder of Sean Bell by off-duty police officers and the image of “bodies strung like tanning hides,” the song is neither heavy-handed nor breast beating.  Rather Malone makes a call to the listener to persevere and rise above setbacks, bringing us with him to the mountain’s peak with a hopeful and uplifting climax, “I see love breaking through.”  
 
Though it can be plodding, and the lyrics can be hard to understand, the record showcases one of the best voices and songwriters in indie rock today.  It’s certainly worth a listen to any fan of Malone’s other band, or anyone who enjoys a literate and sui generis set of songs. A- | Kurt Klopmeier
 
RIYL: TV on the Radio
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