Bailter Space (a.k.a. Bailterspace) is an atmospheric noise rock band that formed in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1987 as Nelsh Bailter Space. The band's sound would mix noise rock and punk with heavy experimentation and elements of space rock and psychedelic. The band have often been compared to Sonic Youth, and they were once described as "The Sonic Youth of the Southern Hemisphere" with Trouser Press describing their early sound as "hard, droning, unforgiving guitar music with occasional lapses into verse/chorus regularity". By Tanker their sound had become more conventional. With their relocation to New York, their sound also shifted, with the band's next releases described as "an unholy collision between The Beatles harmonies and The Velvet Underground dissonance", with Parker stating at the time that the band were getting into "the harmonic value of distortion; we started to be very particular about where we set the instruments up and the angles the sounds were bouncing at. From these harmonic experiments I became more interested in the actual melodic content of the music". Pitchfork Media described them in 1999 as "a huge mess of sound that's simultaneously beautiful, jagged, atonal, and supremely melodic", while another review in the same year described their sound as "one part Superchunk, one part Pixies, and one part Dinosaur Jr.".
Founded by Alister Parker and later with former bandmates John Halvorsen and Brent McLachlan joining, this trio had previously been in a punk rock band known as The Gordons. The band had significant success in New Zealand, Europe and The United States in their initial career, releasing seven studio albums and several EPs before taking a hiatus in 2004. Several reunions and two more albums would follow.
The Gordons (1980 - 1984)Edit
The Gordons existed from 1980 to 1984 and caused a major stir in New Zealand’s music scene with their intense and innovative sonic experiments with volume, rhythm, structure, guitar tunings, and dissonance. All three original members, John Halvorsen, Alister Parker, and Brent McLachlan came from the wider Christchurch/Ashburton area and formed the band just a week before their first concert, which was supporting the Whizz Kids at the Hillsborough Tavern on Saturday 22 March 1980. Their first EP Future Shock was recorded at Harlequin Studios in Auckland in 1980 and released later that year on their own label. It quickly became a collectors item with copies apparently swapping hands in New York at one point in the mid 80’s for up to $400. Their first album, also recorded at Harlequin, was self-released towards the end of 1981 and was promptly voted by readers of "Rip It Up" as New Zealand album of the year. The band played their final show in Wellington in July 1984 with their second line-up of McLachlan and Halvorsen, with Vince Pinker (ex-Proud Scum) on bass. The Gordons released three records during their lifetime and their influence went international, despite them never venturing outside of New Zealand’s shores. One of the very first questions members of Sonic Youth asked on their first tour of New Zealand in early 1989 was if they could go see the Gordons play! After the finish of the Gordons both Halvorsen and McLachlan eventually became members of the Skeptics. They became co-owners of Writhe Recording in Wellington with the Skeptics; and played and recorded with them until the Skeptics finished in September 1990, after vocalist David D’Ath died from leukemia.
Nelsh Bailter Space, Tanker & Thermos (1984 - 1992)Edit
Bailter Space began in Christchurch in 1986 as ‘Nelsh Bailter Space’ when guitarist Alister Parker joined forces with ex- Clean drummer Hamish Kilgour and they started jamming and writing material together. The first Nelsh Bailter Space public performance occurred in late January 1987 with Glenda Bills on keyboard, the band playing support to the Chills at the Carlton Hotel in central Christchurch. Ross Humphries (ex-Pin Group) joined the band in mid 1987 on bass and at the end of that year the 6 track Nelsh Bailter Space EP was released on Flying Nun. The prefix Nelsh was dropped by early 1988, with Bills and Humphries leaving. In April 1988 the new Bailter Space recorded their first album, Tanker, at Writhe Studios in Wellington with ex-Gordons member Halvorsen on bass. The band traveled to the United States where they played at the New Music Seminar in 1989, and when they returned, Kilgour opted to stay there with his new wife and form a new band in Mad Scene. Parker and Halvorsen recruited Mclachlan as the new drummer, recreating the original Gordons lineup. This line-up debuted with the Thermos album, recorded in 1989.[ McLachlan joined the band to play drums, essentially reuniting the original Gordons lineup in a new band, releasing a second album in Thermos circa 1990. The three began their next phase of working together. Between 1989 and 1991 the band toured New Zealand, Australia, USA, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, and eventually left New Zealand in 1992 to base themselves in New York City after a protracted stay in Europe. Bailter Space also notably participated in a BBC session with John Peel in 1992.
Initial Run and Albums (1993 - 2004)Edit
Bailter Space's third album Robot World would follow in 1993, their first to be distributed in the United States by Matador Records. It is generally considered to be a concept album as the themes allude to man's alienation from his fellow citizens due to the pervasive influence of computers, machines and virtual reality. Bailter Space would tour the Netherlands, Germany and the United States in support. A fourth album in Vortura saw release the next year, diving into a generally heavier territory. The band followed with more extensive touring throughout the world in support.
A fifth album in Wammo saw release in 1995 and while generally attaining a positive reception, ultimately was considered by AllMusic to be a "normal" rock band compared to prior records. Nonetheless the band toured the world in support. Notably this would also be the band's final record with distribution via Matador as 1997's Capsul saw a deal with Turnbuckle Records. The band would tour extensively in 1997 supporting Capsul but largely take off from touring in 1998 to prepare their next album. An EP in Photon saw release that year leading up to the release of Solar.3 in 1999, an album that derives heavily in the territories of space rock and shoegaze. Bailter Space would tour through the summer that year but ultimately go on hiatus in 2004.
Turnbuckle Records would notable fold in 2002. In 2004, Matador Records deleted all Bailter Space releases from their catalog. The band's releases are now out of print, except for in New Zealand / Australia. An eponymous retrospective saw it's release in 2004, around the same time of the hiatus.
Reunions, Strobosphere and Trinine (2008, 2012 - 2013, 2018)Edit
The first Bailter Space reunion would take place on 23 August 2008 at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, the band's first show after a four year hiatus. Notably Ian Ljungquist would fill in on bass for this particular show.
On 12 June 2012 Bailter Space would release a new single in No Sense, their first new song in over a decade. This would lead to their first album in thirteen years with Strobosphere, released via Arch Hill Recordings in New Zealand on 13 August 2012 and in the United States via Fire Records on 21 August 2012. The band's ninth album in Trinine would quickly follow on 30 September 2013. Bailter Space also began playing a small string of shows that year, notably the Laneway Festival at Silo Park in Auckland. Five years later Bailter Space would compose a short tour of New Zealand surrounding an appearance at The Others Way Festival in Auckland.
- Tanker (1988, Flying Nun Records)
- Thermos (1989, Flying Nun Records)
- Robot World (1993, Flying Nun Records)
- Vortura (1994, Flying Nun Records)
- Wammo (1995, Flying Nun Records)
- Capsul (1997, Turnbuckle Records)
- Solar.3 (1999, Turnbuckle Records)
- Strobosphere (2012, Fire Records)
- Trinine (2013, Fire Records)
- Nelsh Bailter Space (EP; As Nelsh Bailter Space) (1987, Flying Nun Records)
- New Man (7" Single) (1987, Flying Nun Records)
- Grader Spader (12" Single) (1988, Flying Nun Records)
- The Aim (EP) (1992, Clawfist)
- Shine (Single) (1992, Clawfist)
- B.E.I.P. (EP) (1993, Matador; Flying Nun Records)
- Splat (EP) (1995, Matador; Flying Nun Records)
- Retro (Single) (1995, Flying Nun Records)
- Capsul (Single) (1997, Turnbuckle Records)
- Photon (EP) (1998, Turnbuckle Records)
- No Sense (Single) (2012, Arch Hill Recordings)
- Bailterspace (Compilation) (2004, Flying Nun Records)
- Alister Parker - Guitar, Vocals (1986 - 2004, 2008, 2012 - 2013, 2018)
- Brent McLachlan - Drums (1990 - 2004, 2008, 2012 - 2013, 2018)
- John Halvorsen - Bass, Vocals (1988 - 2004, 2012 - 2013, 2018)
- Ross Humphries - Bass (1986 - 1988)
- Glenda Bills - Keyboards (1986 - 1988)
- Hamish Kilgour - Drums, Vocals (1986 - 1989)
- Todd Lindner
- Ian Ljungquist - Bass (2008)