“Driftwood Heart” by Rain Machine

“Rain Machine” isn’t actually the name of a band; rather, it’s the moniker used by Kyp Malone, one of TV on the Radio’s singers and guitarists, for his obscure 2009 solo album.  If you’ve ever seen TV on the Radio play — live or in a clip on TV or the internet — then Malone is probably most recognizable to you as the one with the big, bushy beard.  If you’ve listened to their music but have never seen a video or picture of them, then you will probably recognize Malone’s voice, at least for his frequent use of his distinctive falsetto.

Malone apparently got the chance to record this solo album after the breakthrough success of TV on the Radio’s 2008 album, Dear Science.  Unfortunately, given the album’s obscurity, it doesn’t look like that gamble paid off for ANTI-, the record label which released Rain Machine.  That’s not surprising; little here is as immediate as the songs on Dear Science.  However, I find that listening patiently and letting these songs develop is very rewarding indeed.

If I had to point to one track that you should listen to even if you don’t listen to the rest of the album, it would be “Driftwood Heart.”  The song opens with the fade-in of a droning accordion, which will provide the base for much of the song; after one minute, it fades out, only to return subtly about halfway through the song, at the crest of the ballad.  (I say “crest” instead of “climax” because I think the latter would imply a melodramatic quality which this peaceful song simply does not possess.)  Also surprisingly subtle are the sleigh bells and claves which arrive towards the end of the track’s first minute to provide the song with some percussion.  The accordion and the percussion contribute to the hypnotic effect of the song, and they are more or less the last instruments to drop out at the end of the song, leaving only the sound of crashing waves.  Much as I appreciate these bookends, this Eastern-tinged acoustic ballad would be wonderful even without them.  Given the heavy use of synthesizers by TVotR, you might be surprised by how beautiful Malone’s guitar and mandolin playing is here.  On top of that, this particular song is, in my opinion, one of Malone’s best vocal performances on record.  And when he does use his falsetto, it fits the song perfectly.