By JENNIFER KELLY
In 2012, Bailter Space put out its first album in thirteen years, the spectacular Strobosphere, which merged the band’s dense, dissonant murk with wavery tunefulness. It was a welcome return for the band tagged as New Zealand’s Sonic Youth, the wild card noise instigators among its lo-fi janglers. Now just a year later, Bailter Space has returned with more abrasive take on its feedback-altered storm and drone. Trinine builds on static-fuzzed foundations laid down more than three decades ago in cuts like “Grader Spader” (off the wonderful Flying Nun compilation In Love With These Times). It just takes them a little further into mess and distortion than Strobosphere did.
Bailter Space began in 1987 when Alister Parker started fooling around, post-Gordons, with Clean drummer Hamish Kilgour. Kilgour dropped out shortly after the band’s first album Tanker. Bailter Space is currently a three-piece with Parker, along with ex-Gordons bass player John Halvorson and (also ex-Gordons) drummer Brent McLachlan. Despite the continuity in personnel, Bailter Space sounds roughly nothing like the Gordons, a boxy, acerbic Fall-like post-punk outfit, which made two albums in the 1980s before breaking up.
Trinine is a sprawling, blistering, hallucinogenic trip of an album, whose sense of endless drift coincides, somehow, with propulsive rhythms. There is a density to these tracks that belies its sparse, three-man line-up. Bailter Space is well-known for interspersing taped samples of instruments into its mixes, creating a dense, shifting plethora of guitar sounds. You can hear this best on the rowdy, uptempo “Tri5” and the closer “Tapenzloop.”
Most of these tracks have vocals – that’s Parker, who sounds eerily like Thurston Moore – though buried so deep in the fuzz that it’s hard to pick out individual words. Strobosphere brought the melodic lines forward, eliciting an almost jangle-poppish sound in “Blue Star”, but Trinine funnels them in through a secret air duct. They arrive, impossibly soft, murmured almost, so that you feel like you’re hearing them, barely, through some acoustic trickery. It’s a ghostly, spectral shade in the band’s overall sound, a cool element in a mix that often seems to buckle in its own frictive heat. I like, for instance, the contrast between the chanted lyrics of “Trinine” and the sawed-off abrasion of its bass and guitar. It’s a song that sprawls and spreads and roils, but also moves in a discernible direction. You know when it’s about to end (which you don’t, necessarily, with the droniest kinds of songs).
The best track, though, cuts through the fog with a Prolapse-ish sense of mad propulsion. There’s an uneasy clarity to “Silver”, where inexorable bass and drums hammer on under a spectral electronic aura. It’s the cut on that album that Neu-like, balances motion and stillness, and that builds a wall of sound pock-marked with stillnesses. On the whole, I liked Strobosphere better, but this song hits harder than anything on it.
DOWNLOAD: “Silver” “Trinine” “Tri5”