Bailterspace - Strobosphere - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Bailterspace - Strobosphere

by Steve Reynolds Rating:6.5 Release Date:2012-08-28

Can you be truthful and name an alternative guitar band from New Zealand? OK, that's long enough. If you did, was one of them Bailterspace, comprised of Alister Parker (guitar, bass), John Halvorsen (bass, guitar) and Brent McLachlan (drums/percussion, samples)? Formed in 1987, they went on to make seven albums before embarking on a rather lengthy hiatus before this year's newie Strobosphere, their first since 2004.

Sitting comfortably with discordant stair rods of noise, the album is full of chaotic guitar, thudding bass and dogmatic drum patterns which splatter dark, bleak passages of melodic distortion strongly redolent of several important guitar bands from the last 25 years. That, however, shouldn't take away the sound that the band have made their own. To have so many healthy reference points such as MBV, Fugazi, Sonic Youth and JAMC shouldn't mark them down as mere copycats.

'Things That We Found' is a beautifully gloomy introduction to Strobosphere as the guitar stridently bullies the vocals aside with a slice of post-rock treading familiar ground to Slint's 'Spiderland'. It sets a healthy barometer for the other 10 tracks on show here. The fast/slow blanket of dank psychedelia that is the title track succeeds effortlessly. The laconic vocal on recent single 'Blue Star' could quite easily be Jim or William Reid while the rumbling mass of the rhythm section on 'Polarize' cuts loose and descends into hard rock territory. "Give us a day, give us away" the refrain on 'No Sense' is the first non-ethereal sounding vocal so far and the broodiness which hangs over the song creates an edgy feel. If there is a disappointment, it's that the whole song is curtailed far too soon, especially as it's just starting to warm the old cockles.

Apparently, the band were once dubbed 'The Sonic Youth of the Southern Hemisphere' but I personally think that's a rather large monkey on their backs which they have had to live with for far too long. Yes, there are snippets of the New Yorker's art-rock crank but Bailterspace are much straighter and less avant-garde than their American cousins. This is shown with the rather dreary 'Op1', which treads water and has me reaching for the skip button.

Unfortunately, the latter part of the album trails off and lacks the punch of the first, which could be the result of that hiatus just dragging on far too long and thus weakening the band's creative streak. Signs of early promise just petered out to produce an underwhelming ending.

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