Josh McKay's Macha played a drone-heavy brand of post-rock that made use of a battery of non-Western instruments and compositional strategies, and eschewed Tortoise-style jazz influences for more marginal progressive musics. McKay has been doing solo work under the Seaworthy name since the last Macha tour, and The Ride
provides a significantly less challenging take on instrumentation than Macha did, though the overall feel of the music is every bit as hypnotic in its execution. The opener, "Open the Gates", provides a good example of the type of simple instrumentations that McKay, through expert production and compelling melody, transforms into rather magical soundscapes; his breathy vocals slip over hyper-reverbed guitar bends, trebly piano plinks and insistent drums. For the rest of the album, McKay shares vocal duties with Japanese chanteuse Haco (on the near-trip-hop of "The Day") and invites Osaka experimental rockers After Dinner and Hoahio (who are on John Zorn's Tzadik label) to help out as well -- a sign that McKay is a well-respected force in the avant-garde. All the same, while it offers as many nods to classical composers like Steve Reich as it does to space-rockers like Flying Saucer Attack or Windy and Carl, The Ride
seems decidedly poppy; apart from a number of spacy atmospheric pauses between tracks, many of these songs are decidedly single-ready -- even catchy. Certainly "Identifying the Body," with its infectious bass line groove, funky drumming and airy vocals, has a feel straight out of Bristol 1994.
McKay does best when pushing the limits of the pop song structure, as on the two-part title track that ends the record. Hypnotic to the point of being scary, the track and its title conjure everything from the motion of waves (sampled wave-crashes open the song) to the propulsive drum technique to the seminal shoegazer band of the same name. Slightly vocoded vocals soar above a rolling piano drone -- and for the second part of the song, over nothing but the sound of waves and some spare, thick drum beats, building to a triumphant finish. The album is gorgeous and richly textured, but it seems as if McKay can't decide whether he wants to focus on groovy, downtempo space-pop or more experimental, melodramatic soundscapes.