With embarrassment I admit that until today I had referred to the band in prolonged hipster conversations about music as “Baiterspace.” The word was an earworm at one point, the kind of word that circles around in your brain for no apparent reason, like acetabulum, but that’s another story.
I attribute the mistake to being too cool to wear my glasses. The trade off for coolness was missing the L between the I and the T whenever the band was mentioned in Tearaway Magazine, which had a special place in my heart being a 10 year old in ’95 with a reading age of 16.
I attribute never being corrected until now to the tender young age of those around me. In ’04, the year of the band’s eponymous release Bailterspace, the other children of ‘85 were more focussed on Americanisation, and the unconscious pushing away of their Kiwi identity.
The soundtrack to their lives, and also mine as a mindless zombie that fed on Channel Four’s after school music video line up, consisted of Blink 182’s “I miss you”, Evanescence’s “My Immortal” and “American Idiot” from Green Day.
I wish I had been older, like the University types, holding classic Kiwi gems like Bailterspace as my idols, and having the knowledge of what good music meant so I could bitch about the empty pop music of the day.
Being one too young at the time to appreciate the sound of Bailterspace, it’s strange that listening to Strobosphere conjures a false sense of nostalgia. Walking in the rain through the CBD with opening track “Things That We Found” loud enough to appreciate Bailterspace’s wall of dissonance, I was struck by some feeling of connection to New Zealand music’s golden era. Though now ex-pats, the music still retains that indescribable and organic Flying Nun signature sound.
Stylistically the album carves a niche between the insanity of Sonic Youth and the melancholic drone of Joy Division. It’s like an over-distorted, under-enthusiastic version of ‘70s punk, though less anarchistic. More like disgruntled. It’s stereophonic sound, man, and you gotta play it loud.
This new album sounds like an artefact of the 80’s, the good part of the 80’s, you know, the part without the fluoro… everything. It’s made me want to revisit the bands earlier efforts, inspired me to scavenge the shelves of Real Groovy for the entire Bailterspace discography, which by the sound of Strobosphere, I imagine to be more of the same. This is one band where I feel that more of the same and sticking to convention would not be such a bad thing.
If only there was still a Real Groovy in Wellington…
Bailterspace originally hail from Christchurch, but are currently now based in New York. They are one of the longest serving bands for New Zealand independent record company Flying Nun.
Bailterspace was originally formed by Alister Parker and Hamish Kilgour in Christchurch, 1987. Hamish, formerly drummer in The Clean and The Great Unwashed, and Alister, late of The Gordons, shared an interest in dense, groovy guitar noise and their original line-up also featured Glenda Bills on keyboards and Ross Humphries (former member of the Pin Group and also playing guitar in the Terminals at that time) on bass. This line up released the Flying Nun EP, 'Nelsh Bailter Space' and the 7" single, 'New Man.'
After Glenda and Ross left, too scared to go into the mysterious beyond with sonic adventurers Hamish and Alister, former Gordons bassist John Halvorsen was recruited for the group. This line-up recorded the album 'Tanker' and 12" single 'Grader Spader' at Wellington's famous Writhe Studio with Brent McLachlan at the controls, and also toured America, playing at the New Music Seminar in 1989.