How can an album sound celestial and demonic at the same time? Somehow The Black Ryder manage to capture that very contradiction, combining majestic, soaring, slabs of sonic architecture that reach in celebration to the heavens yet which conjure nightmarish dreamscapes that can be glimpsed just behind the music. And that is just the opening salvo, the aptly named Babylon, a name that itself suggests the rise of civilization and the fall of man simultaneously.
And if their previous references, the ones that they fashioned and re-imagined into debut album Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride, sit somewhere between the languid musical dreams of My Bloody Valentine and the softer underbelly, when one could be found, of The Jesus and Mary Chain, here their influences seem to reach further back into the underground musical canon, introducing drifting psychedelic trips, acid folk balladry and summer of love avant-garde experimentation into the mix.
It’s a wonderful journey, for short of being a concept album in the old school sense; it does seem to be a series of related themes meandering around a central musical narrative. If not a concept album then an album of concepts perhaps. It is at once uplifting yet retaining a dark heart, backward glancing yet striding out into new musical pastures, powerful yet understated, like the sound of distant thunder and the taught atmosphere you experience before the storm arrives. The term an album of light and shade may be a bit of a journalistic cliché, but I can’t think of a better term that describes the very essence of what The Black Ryder do.