Essential New Music: Bailterspace’s “Concret”

It’s tempting to say that any combo of musicians who first played together 40 years ago has been around for a long time, but it’s probably more accurate to say that Bailterspace operates outside of time. Pauses, sabbaticals and episodes during which band members live 9,000 miles apart are not problems—they’re just the way things are for New Zealanders Alister Parker, John Halvorson and Brent McLachlan.

The trio, which first convened in 1980 as the notoriously loud and sui generis Gordons and adopted this name some years later, has played a few gigs over the last decade in the Land Of The Long White Cloud, but Concret is Bailterspace’s first album in seven years. Its only concession to the times is the mode of delivery; while there’s no telling what the future may bring, right now you can only get it from the trio’s Bandcamp page. Musically, it’s a distillation of things they’ve been doing since the 1990s, when their hot streak of records on Matador rewrote and substantially improved upon the shoegaze playbook.

But Concret makes perfect sense in 2020. Parker’s expertly manipulated guitar tones practically mandate social distancing, lest they turn your mortal frame to jelly, and Halvorson’s heaving bass feels like a natural disaster in progress. But since these sounds get poured into melodic frameworks that are pushed along by McLachlan’s crisp drumming, you’re as likely to hum Concret’s songs as you are to use them as a self-protective force field. Either way, they’ll do the trick.

—Bill Meyer