Whatever you want it to be
The shoegaze veteran group Ride is at its best when not straying far from its winning-formula of ambient sounds and heavily distorted guitars. Adding sophisticated undertones for a well-layered sound, the band keeps its personality recognizable in This is Not a Safe Place, its sixth studio album. The new record is a colorful escape to a world that the Oxford-based Ride has been crafting for nearly three decades, one it is glad to be back in.
The intro song “R.I.D.E.” sets the tone for the record with its steady drum groove, bulging vocal harmonies and distorted sounds. The three-minute instrumental track helps clear the listener’s mind of clutter; if one allows it, the song induces relaxation. The second track “Future Love” is a fast-paced sonic ride past colorful dream-pop influences, mainly picked up by the group during the peak of the genre’s popularity in Britain during the early ‘90s. The synths are heavy in “Repetition” as are the deeply-layered vocals of lead singer Mark Gardener, the combination is enjoyable.
While the pop elements shine when they lead one of the tracks, they are best-suited to accentuate the guitar riffs of songs like “Fifteen Minutes” which erupt into phenomenal gales of cathartic distortion. The thick mix of electric guitar leads and synth-pop accents can undoubtedly be attributed to Ride lead guitarist Andy Bell’s time as the bassist of Britpop giant Oasis. “Jump Jet” has a rich bassline that protrudes from the track. The easy-going ninth song “Dial Up” is the album’s turn toward a splendid and serene finale.
“End Game” is an ambient piece that revolves around a steady drum rhythm and a sharp piano chord progression. The vocals alternate from a minimalist hip-hop delivery on the verses to grand swells on the song’s hook, the instrumental culmination echoes the alternative rock brilliance of rap-rock groups like Linkin Park. “Shadows Behind the Sun” is an acoustic guitar-led track that is sensitive and surrounded by a harmonious atmosphere.
The final track of the record “In This Room” is the conclusion of any contemplative period; it is a discovery, an epiphany. The track’s long instrumental finale allows the listener to reflect on the record and take from it whatever they wish. The ambient sounds, echoing guitars, serene drum beat and warm bass have a healing nature to them. The instruments provide an escape to a world where music triumphs and both Ride and album producer Erol Alkan should be proud of that.
If we let it, music can take us anywhere we want it to; it can affect us as we desire: music can douse the flames of anger, clear the clouds of sadness, make us whole. Since their reunion in 2014, Ride has surrendered to the influences that made it one of Britain’s top acts of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and with it brought back a quality sorely missed in music today.