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The Black Ryder - The Door Behind the Door

While genres such as hip hop and electronica appear to be constantly evolving, shoegaze seems to have come to a bit of a standstill. For many the genre perished long ago, collapsing in a hillock of noise and psychedelics the day Ride released Carnival of Light or when Oasis burst onto the scene, clad in leather jackets and aviator sunglasses. While the genre is still producing some incredible music, the difficulty to impress, stand out in, or reinvent it in the 21st century has never been more apparent. A Place to Bury Strangers have tried it, The War On Drugs have done it, and with sophomore album The Door Behind the Door, The Black Ryder have split the difference right down the whammy bar.

Formed by Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper after their exit from fellow Australian dream poppers The Morning After Girls, the duo’s vociferous 2009 debut Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride offered hope that their craft was not yet merely a relic of a bygone era. As lucid as it was enveloping, amidst all the noise there was an inherent ear for melody, juxtaposing a warm shoegaze aesthetic with a cool dream pop mentality. It’s been six years since, and in this time the band’s direction seems to have inverted toward enveloping, textured noisescapes punctuated by poignant melodies, instead of the other way around. In a time where most want something short, fast and catchy it’s a polarising decision, one that is likely to satisfy fans, but unsettle the remainder.

Sonically speaking, The Door Behind the Door is gentler than Buy the Ticket’s strident psychedelia, but in terms of songwriting and production it’s anything but temperate. At the best of times, profuse soundscapes comprising tinges of mellow country, ethereal drone and near-paralysing emotion are all present. But like the movement of the tambourine on many of its tracks, the album’s overall consistency tends to waver throughout.

In an odd instance of symmetry, most of the album’s weaker tracks are bookended by its finest moments. From the beginning of the album we step out into “Bablyon”, a desolate wasteland of overdriven noise, echo and delay, looking up at (second track) “The Seventh Moon”, glimmering in the distance in its lucid grandeur. Containing more layers than Elizabeth Frazer’s mid-80s hair, the album’s final two songs “Until the Calm of Dawn” and 12-minute instrumental “(Le Dernier Sommeil) The Final Sleep” are also refined, rousing and deeply resonant, creating a feeling of catharsis which extends far beyond their titles. With their stunning cinematic, classically tinged arrangements these tracks share more in common with Beethoven than Bowery Electric. This is the essence you feel the maturing duo is trying to cultivate with The Door Behind the Door: one that takes us on an immersive voyage into the yonder, to make us feel as if we’re floating in space.

Though at times the album’s journey feels akin to captivating celestial cruise, listeners may find themselves lost in the album’s midsection, as monotony and dreariness filter in. “Santaria” starts out as a Jesus and Mary Chain slow burner which threatens (but ultimately fails) to burst through the album’s titular door, “All That We Are” offers only ephemeral glimpses of the band’s (and genre’s) potential to induce sensation, while “The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down” truthfully never really goes up to begin with. While filled with the gothic melancholia and gentle, powerful harmonies which most shoegazers find so appealing, that’s all it’s comprised of. Buy the Ticket had contrast in terms of volume and tempo intensity, and among the plethora of kindredness present, certain listeners will likely tune in and out.

While we’re largely left wanting during the album’s midsection, “Throwing Stones”, approximating a Hope Sandoval fronted Primal Scream track, provides comfort, as does the breathtaking “Let Me Be Your Light”. Nash’s angelic whispers on the latter softly glide over a cacophony of noise – both effortless and enervating – to create what is one of genre’s finest songs in recent memory. There’s no choice but to give in to her demands, illuminating our paths on a section of the journey that is largely caliginous.

Though critical acclaim has never really been what shoegaze and dream pop is all about, in an age in which we constantly crave musical evolution and flexibility The Door Behind the Door falls (objectively) a little flat. Enthusiasts will hear the album as a big success, others, as a disappointment. Shoegaze today is frequently written off as mere nostalgia or imitation, and thus through little fault of their own, The Black Ryder will always have their detractors. While The Door Behind The Door contains what will undoubtedly be some of the year’s best sonic and compositional interplay, in a wider context, you can’t help but feel the band may have been formed a few decades too late.

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