Published Jan 01, 2006The only certain thing when it comes to a new TV On the Radio album is where its recorded. Located in a rapidly gentrifying part of Brooklyn, Stay Gold Studio is the offspring of integral TVOTR member David Andrew Sitek. It is in this scuzzy laboratory that Sitek, vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone, and new members Jaleel Bunton and Gerard Smith concoct music beyond classification. Some tracks stun with a haze of crunchy guitar and pounding drums, while others float in shoegaze heaven as Siteks electronic burbles provide counterpoint. Through it all are the harmonies and interplay of the crooning Adebimpe and the urgent falsetto of Malone that draw people in, almost spiritually. They demand attention and it is all utterly and achingly original.
Of course, this magic is sometimes hard to come by. "We have tons of vocal tracks, explains Kyp Malone. "Ill do three, four sets of tracks and [Adebimpe] will do three, four sets of tracks. Its painstaking and we try really hard, but I still hear things that I wish I could go back and change, but that just gives me the encouragement to say that were not finished yet, that we can try to get it to sound perfect next time.
That doesnt mean hes disappointed with their latest, Return to Cookie Mountain. "I dont have any reservations about it. I just hear things that I dont know anyone else will hear except for me, because I know how a song was supposed to sound in my head, but this is how it came out.
Many people popped by Stay Gold to help midwife the birth of Cookie; the most buzzed-about was the Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie. Malone drops his guard when asked about the legends participation on the stunning "Province. "Honestly? I think one would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to work with him. There was a moment of egoistic preciousness where I was fearful that it was going to turn into the song as backdrop for someone to be a superstar, but it wasnt that way at all. He was such a team player and so supportive and wonderful to work with and not showboating and not there because of self-aggrandizement, but to help us and be supportive and be a part of it because he liked it.
After their last album, the award-winning Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, TVOTR put out an EP, New Health Rock, that upped the tempo and took them in a more rock direction. Cookie continues this intensity, but Malone denies that it is more aggressive. "Dave [Sitek] is an intense person and hes really big on BPMs and he wants almost everything to go faster than I want it to go. I know Im actually one of the slowest moving and hearing people that Ive ever encountered, so Ill presume that things can go faster, and being faster can sound more aggressive.
In the end, the open, perplexing melange of genres that TVOTR explore may leave some scratching their heads, which makes no difference to the band. They toil in the studio and do what they want. "The one difference is that somewhere along the way we were conceiving it as a dance record I dont know if we succeeded with that or not. I think its a record you can dance to if you like.