The Black Ryder seem to enjoy wading in that hazy, dream pop sound that emanated from the UK in the late 80s and early 90s. Guitars awash in feedback and chorused drone as tremolo bars are in full dip as synths come in and out of the mix. Half-whispered, stoned vocals purr a melody along with the drugged and euphoric music. Just drop the needle(or hit play) on “To Never Know You”, the opening track on The Black Ryder’s debut Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride and everything will become perfectly clear. Continue listening and that My Bloody Valentine/Ride/Lush/Slowdive vibe will coat your brain, for better or worse.
Since that album’s initial release in 2009, Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper have put away most of the Creation Records’ roster for what sounds like heavy doses of Spiritualized, Massive Attack, and even some Pink Floyd. The Door Behind the Door, The Black Ryder’s new long player, is a technicolor listen of an album. It has the aspirations of a three-hour cinematic opus, where Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride was a gritty little indie film. While they don’t always succeed in hitting the mark, it’s still fun listening to them try.
Scott Von Ryper and Aimee Nash obviously had a vision for this record. When you open a sophomore record with a two minute noise piece instead of greeting waiting ears with some ear candy you either really don’t care what anyone thinks, or you’re setting the mood for what’s coming next. The Black Ryder are most definitely doing the latter, as the next two songs, the cinematic “Seventh Moon” and the melancholy “The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down” deliver on a grand scale. Nash has a voice that could make a reading of the phone book mysterious and sultry, and “Seventh Moon” showcases that voice beautifully. Production that would bring a tear to Alan Parsons’ eyes, the scope of the song builds throughout until we’re greeted with backing vocals, what sounds like actual orchestration(could be synths), and climactic swell that even Jason Pierce would have to give a stoned nod to. “The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down” has Von Ryper plucking a pretty acoustic melody as he musically and emotionally puts all his cards on the table. The song adds keys, loping drums, and electric guitar that only adds to the emotional heft. It’s classic 70s AOR stuff.
Elsewhere, “Let Me Be Your Light” brings back some of that psychedelic ambiance from their debut with Aimee Nash doing her best Hope Sandoval, maybe even better than Hope Sandoval. The song has a slinky quality to it that makes the hazy noises hiding behind the melody all the more interesting. “Throwing Stones” has an earthy vibe to it. Very much reminiscent of some buried track off Pink Floyd’s Meddle. Nash puts a smokey finish on her vocals that makes her sound a bit like Norah Jones. This track gets pretty spectacular with the choir that kicks in half way through. These touches give this record a grandiose feel that most indie rock records nowadays don’t even attempt to achieve.
Sometimes, though, bigger doesn’t always translate to better. “Santaria” seems to have found its ending far sooner than its six-minute length, with the song halfway in getting noisy unnecessarily. “Until the Calm of Dawn” is a pretty piece with a touch of Sparklehorse in the telephone vocals, but unfortunately it’s muted by the 12-minute closer “(Le Dernier Sommeil) The Final Sleep”. While ambitious and quite beautiful, the song feels more like an experiment rather than a piece that adds to the overall feel of the album. By the end, you just feel wore out.
The Door Behind the Door is an ambitious record for The Black Ryder to make. It’s not an “you’re in, you’re out” kind of fuzzy rock record. It’s dense, symphonic, and at times a bit sluggish, but my hat’s off to these two. You either go all in, or you go home. The Black Ryder went all in and then some.
7.5 out of 10