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RIDE – Interplay (Wichita)

15 March 2024

Album number seven for the Oxford four-piece, “Interplay”, is out March 29th via Wichita Recordings/ PIAS. Five years since their last record, “This Is Not a Safe Place”, RIDE continues in much the same vein that they’ve been mining since reforming in 2017.

“Interplay” is a hefty journey, clocking in at just over 57 minutes, and spanning 12 tracks. Guitars figure a bit more prominently on this LP than the prior two in the 2.0 return of the band. No doubt all the live shows in recent years with “Nowhere” and “Going Blank Again” anniversaries have rubbed off.

Despite its length, “Interplay” is more cohesive than the last two LPs, in part because there seems to be less filler (and more killer!) Perhaps it’s truer to say that the new record has fewer down-tempo experimental pieces which somewhat fragmented and slowed momentum on the last two albums. Understandably, guitarist/singer Andy Bell points out that much has happened in the five years since the last album, and this no doubt shaped this record:

“This album has taken a long time to make, and has seen the band go through a lot of ups and downs; maybe the most of any RIDE album. But it has seen us come through the process as a band in a good place, feeling able to shake off the past, and ready to celebrate the combined musical talents that brought us together in the first place.”

The new record has plenty of positives, thanks to a variety of arrangements built upon the band’s strong songwriting craft. Super catchy up-tempo tunes (“Peace Sign”, “Monaco”, “Portland Rocks”) sit alongside dreamy shoegaze (“Light in a Quiet Room”, “I Came to See the Wreck”), Baroque pop (through a RIDE lens, mind you) (“Last Night I Went Somewhere to Dream”, “Sunrise Chaser”), and hypnotic late-night trip-pop (“Stay Free”, “Midnight Rider”, “Essaouira”). The variety is refreshing, if a bit jarring potentially for some listeners.

Improvisation figured into the recording process. As Andy notes with “Last Frontier”:

“For the topline, I tried improvising at the mic, singing it all different ways, and coming up with new parts on the spot. I felt really exposed but kind of said to myself, ‘you’re among friends, it’s good to push yourself to try new ways to write.’ It feels different to every vocal I’ve ever done. It’s still a new way of working for me but it’s something I want to continue trying as I think it makes for better vocal lines; a good mixture of written and improvised.”

Track by track:

Track 1: Peace Sign: 100% in the vein of RIDE 2.0 DNA. Easily as catchy as “Charm Assault” off “Weather Diaries”, it’s a superb single that marries all of RIDE’s hallmarks from singalong harmonies to meaty guitar riffs, punchy drums, and rollicking bass lines.

Track 2: Last Frontier: The song chugs with ease, as fragmented guitar shards add light. Thundering drums kick off with bass lines much like Peter Hook carrying the tune with dominance in the mix. Indeed, Andy notes how Joy Division figured into the style of the song once it was worked up:

“This was the runt of the litter of the very first jam session from Mark [Gardener]’s OX4 Studio, and I didn’t even include it on my shortlist of the best tracks. It was our producer, Richie Kennedy (Radiohead, The Murder Capital, White Lies, Suede, The Kooks), who saw the potential of the song, and we attacked this with a vengeance at Vada studio. A complete revamp of the backing track and arrangement was needed and we took it right back to basics, more towards a pounding Joy Division feel.”

Track 3: Light in a Quiet Room: The first longish song on the album comes to life with a dreamy pulse beat, channeling Spiritualized / The Darkside. At the halfway mark the song goes silent briefly before transforming into a crunching feedback of guitars akin to a rocket launch from anticipatory billowing smoke through deafening, teeth-rattling lift-off.

Track 4: Monaco: Wait, what? Out of the ashes and ear ringing from “Quiet Room”, this one starts with a programmed drum track and is almost unrecognizable as the RIDE we’ve come to know. It is supremely catchy nonetheless, though I wonder how “Monaco” would translate live, sidelining drummer Laurence “Loz” Colbert in the process. Hmm.

Track 5: I Came to See the Wreck: Definitely a standout track. It moves with the rhythmic muscle of The Cure’s “Fascination Street”, seamlessly blending electronic/synth sounds and beats with spacey guitars that erupt at the halfway mark before “disintegrating” [sorry!] into sizzling short circuits.

Track 6: Stay Free: A gentle acoustic track with Andy singing lead that builds upon a simple drumbeat (think XTC’s “Boarded Up”) with overlayed synths and twanging electric guitars. The song’s strength lies in its deceptively straightforward structure spread over five hypnotic minutes.

Track 7: Last Night I Went Somewhere to Dream: Loz rolls out a sneaky off-kilter rhythm here that counters Mark’s smooth vocals and chiming guitars.

Track 8: Sunrise Chaser: Steve Queralt’s bass is welcomed back into the forefront here. Again, I hear a little of later-period XTC or Peter Gabriel in the instrumentation, funky bass, building and receding arrangements, and vocal harmonies. This is another track that pushes the envelope of what we’re used to with RIDE, but the results are outstanding. More please.

Track 9: Midnight Rider: A groovy beat, a complementary bass line, a dreamy vocal, and choppy guitar harmonics all conspire perfectly here.

Track 10: Portland Rocks: Full-throttle rawk carries the day here. This one is “Vapour Trail” for today’s festival crowd. I could see this song polarizing fans and I admit this arrangement/production isn’t my favorite.

Track 11: Essaouira: This track stands out stylistically with its muted beauty. It’s not so much electronic as in some past RIDE efforts, but restrained rather with percussion low in the mix, letting vocals and guitars shine bright. The seven minutes fly by.

Track 12: Yesterday Is Just a Song: The closer starts out ominously with synths and fractured, processed vocals. This one could easily fit in a contemporary sci-fi space drama.

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