Personnel: Melinda Rice, Christopher Votek (strings); Graham Roby (drums); Belinda Skinner, J'Nae Fincannon (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Wesley Seidman; Scott VonRyper.
Recording information: Idyllwild, CA; Joshua Tree, CA; Los Angeles, CA.
Photographer: Aimée Nash.
In some ways, the gap between the Black Ryder's cult-favorite debut Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride and its follow-up The Door Behind the Door feels even bigger than the five years that separate them. Aimee Nash and Scott Van Ryper went through some major changes during that time, including their divorce and a move to Los Angeles, and these songs reflect what they weathered together. The talent they showed for crafting atmospheres is even more impressive here: thanks to the lavish production and arrangements, The Door Behind the Door is crisper and more massive-sounding than its predecessor. However, as they polish their narcotic haze, the Black Ryder sacrifice some of the rock & roll grit that made Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride so captivating. On songs such as "Until the Calm of Dawn" and "Throwing Stones," Von Ryper and Nash downplay walls of distortion in favor of strings, keyboards, church bells, gospel choirs, and other grand touches that make this album the Ladies and Gentlemen... We Are Floating in Space to their debut's Psychocandy. The Door Behind the Door's best moments show that the Black Ryder's songwriting has taken even bigger steps forward than their sound. At times, they seemed content to let Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride's sultry, sullen vibe do most of the heavy lifting; this time around, there's a clarity to Nash and Von Ryper's melodies and lyrics that makes them that much more resonant. Von Ryper is lovelorn but not bitter on "The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down" and "Santaria" (which comes the closest to Buy the Ticket's hypnotic churn), and while Nash is never less than alluring on the love scene-ready "Seventh Moon," the way she coos "we could destroy and conquer all" on "Let Me Be Your Light" hints that her sensuality isn't all sweetness. The duo saves its biggest departure for last, and the 12-minute, string-driven instrumental "(Le Dernier Sommeil) The Final Sleep" may be too indulgent and too different for some fans. Nevertheless, The Door Behind the Door takes the essence of the Black Ryder's music in directions that distinguish them from the like-minded bands that sprung up in their absence. ~ Heather Phares