Photos by Jon Ching
Last night at Rickshaw Stop, The Black Ryder proved themselves to be masters of the hard/soft dichotomy. In celebration of their new LP, The Door Behind the Door, the duo harnessed soft and hard, quiet and loud, gentle and erratic, warm then instantly cool elements to build imperfect walls of sound. Instead of the making impenetrable barriers of noise, The Black Ryder constructed their walls with doors and windows to let light in and to allow new ideas to wander in and out. Though the duo played more songs off of their first record, the most powerful moments of the set came with their new material.
Along with a full band, co-creative heads Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper opened the show with the hum of “Burn and Fade” off the first album. Hushed dual vocals and headstrong lyrics (“I’m not a friend to what you’re feeling. I don’t have all that you need”) set a defiant yet unconcerned tone – the same calculated cool that has, until now, defined the band since they dropped their first record in 2009.
They transitioned into “Santaria,” offering a familiar, minimal drone soundscape with a stunning optimism that derives from their new album. As ethereal guitar simmered just below boiling point, Von Ryper and Nash repeated the sweet words, “I walk with you,” over and over with a detached look in their eyes.
The Black Ryder gave the crowd that most affection during “Let Me Be Your Light,” the latest and strongest single off of the new record. Fuzzy bass, atmospheric guitars and cymbals swirled around the song’s hopeful lyrics like a warm embrace which seemed even more tender in contrast to the band’s disconnected presence. The song remained reassuring, even in the face of mundane reality. Nash sang, “Oh yes it’s true, we’ve been here before. Like lovers under pause,” with complete composure, before giving way to the chorus. “If you let me be your light, shining down on you, you know we’ll make it through. Don’t let them take you down, my love. Know that we will hold on to you,” she sang, softening her gaze and giving off just enough emotion to latch onto.
The bated tenderness in the air dissipated as the band recoiled in favor of the psych-tinged “Grass” and the tough attitude of “Gone Without a Feeling,” all songs off of the first record. From here, they lifted and lowered the audience again and again.
Nash gave a breathless performance of “Seventh Moon,” which again remains optimistic in the shadow of lost love (“Weightless, as we fall out of love… We are unbreakable”).
Von Ryper stunned the audience with the opening chords of the lonely western ballad “Sweet Come Down.” As they whispered their way through the song’s cold harmonies, the quietest moment of the set, the crowd remained motionless, everyone’s mouths slightly agape.
With no encore, they bid the audience farewell with “Let It Go,” and walked off the stage with nothing more than a “Thank you.”
Though the sum of these moments may seem disconnected, The Black Ryder tied them together with their newly refined style – warm detachment, cool tenderness – which exists largely in their willingness to soften their lyrics against the harder backdrop of their sound and stage presence. Where many bands would have seemed disingenuous, they perplexed and then assuaged the audience sonically and lyrically to make one whole performance, an act that only The Black Ryder could have delivered.