Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Photo by Hilary Cadigan
Kyp Malone is working the merchandise booth. The same creative genius behind the highly-acclaimed art-rock band TV on the Radio is now selling t-shirts and vinyl records to the twenty-something people in the room, as the opening act Sharon Van Etten caresses her way through a peaceful set.
That was my introduction to an evening with Rain Machine last night. As I walked into the concert room in the back of The Earl, I needed to look no further than a few steps in front of me to see the contrast in size between TV on the Radio and Rain Machine.
Just a few short months back, Malone played in front of thousands of people at various festivals such as Coachella and Bonnaroo, as well as sellout shows behind the widely praised 2008 album Dear Science. Two weeks into a tour with his new side project Rain Machine, he was lucky to have fifty fans watching him perform. Nevertheless, Kyp Malone managed to impress the crowd in similar fashion, while sharing another side of himself usually not seen in his TVOTR shows.
As Malone graced the stage, donning his disheveled hair and unkempt, gray-tinged beard in usual fashion, he remarked how different it felt to be back in front of such a small crowd, where he felt like a beginner for the “first time in a long time” as he attempted to “tune my own guitar without plugging it in.” Nevertheless, Malone appeared at ease as he led Rain Machine through most of the tracks off their recently released self-titled debut album.
Rain Machine’s music picks up where TV on the Radio’s experimentalism ends, drawing a more noise-driven sound at times, while offering an ambient lo-fi beauty on their softer tracks. Where in the past Kyp Malone’s work with TV on the Radio suggested his collaborative influence, Rain Machine shined in their own creative visions—whether through Kyp’s cerebral musings or his eclectic music style.
After starting the show with a couple slower songs, Rain Machine caught the crowd’s attention with their dynamic track “Smiling Black Faces,” and “New Last Name,” which stands as Rain Machine’s stripped down version of TV on the Radio’s “Stork & Owl.” “Hold You Holy” continued the noticeable TV on the Radio comparisons, as Malone encouraged the crowd to dance to their liveliest track.
At this point of the show, the comparisons to his former group rightfully ended. Kyp stayed onstage to perform solo on “Love Won’t Save You,” which showcased his vocal limitations as well as his creativity. As the song crawled along, slowly building with each guitar strum, Malone begins to comment, wail, and cry words expressing the dire state of world, including “Free Market” and “A-Bomb” over and over.
Once the spine-tingling and lengthy “Love Won’t Save You,” finished, the rest of Rain Machine returned to play several more songs, including the edgy, sharp “Give Blood.” Ringing full of dissonant distortion, the song contrasted nicely with Malone’s soaring voice. After reaching their loudest, the group wound down, playing one or two more songs before ending with the beautifully sprawling, over ten-minute “Winter Song,” where Malone flexed his vocal range, reaching notes that seemed unreachable by some of his stature.
In the past, Malone would have been content to not be the main focus of a show, allowing fellow TV on the Radio members Tunde Adebimpe or Dave Sitek to provide most of the live energy. Last night, however, he clearly held the audience’s attention as he placed his unique musical style at the forefront of Rain Machine.