Bailterspace - Strobosphere
Back in 2004, the New Zealand band Bailter Space announced a hiatus, and took their striking, messy noise rock into hiding with them. Now, in this world so preoccupied with musical nostalgia, they could have hardly chosen a better time to return with the 11 track Strobosphere and without a space in their name.
Right from the first second of 'Things That We Found', it's clear that Bailterspace haven't undergone a dramatic re-invention. It's all still there: distorted guitars, the moody, dark bass, the barely intelligible, Dirty Beaches style vocals. However, although the dispirited rock quality remains, the boldness and youth that was encapsulated so well in records like Thermos is lacking here. Their new slightly toned down approach comes 22 years after their debut album so this may simply be the sound of a band maturing- but whether that sound is as good as that of their previous work is questionable.
Before the album even begins, Bailterspace are already being overshadowed by their success decades ago. However, their experience works to their advantage throughout the record. 'Strobosphere' proves this by gently gliding into an epic, atmospheric outro with a tense quality that a lot of bands would struggle to replicate. 'Blue Star' echoes some of the psychedelic origins of the shoegazing genre with its whimsical lyrics and vocalist Alister Parker's mellow sounding whispers. It doesn't really matter that he could be mumbling obscenities through the haze of distortion and layers of guitars when the noise itself is so melodic.
'Island' is a glorious moment on Strobosphere, where their infamous comparison as "The Sonic Youth of The Southern Hemisphere" is once again relevant. Dark, dramatic and the point where Parker's vocals are at their finest, with his drawling yells of "we're on an island/ don't you see?." Think Thurston Moore bumping into Nirvana in a gothic castle at midnight and you're almost there.
Although 'Island' is a high point of this record, there are other tracks that don't quite snare the listener the first time. Songs like 'Live by the Ocean' and the slow tempo 'Op1' sound too tame to be very interesting. At times the band lets the guitars do the talking a little too much, and what they have to say just isn't enough to make you stop and take note.
The final track, 'World we Share', with its rocky, optimistic guitar riffs, feels like a victory. Like a successful entrepreneur looking back at the press cuttings and resurrecting those moments of glory. This feeling sums up the entire record- there's a sense that Bailterspace are offering their triumphs and showcasing what have done and continue to do excellently, but nothing more. However, in this case, what they do best might just be enough.