Posts Tagged ‘Skullcrusher’

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Skullcrusher singer songwriter Helen Ballentine From: Los Angeles California, USA, performs Soothingly vulnerable folk songs that tug at the heartstrings through the use of minimal instrumentation, lush vocals and detailed lyricism. Those who listen at full volume and with intent, however, may find their brains a tad dented after absorbing this four-song, 11-minute introduction.
Why you’re going to love them: Skullcrusher – aka Helen Ballentine – finds beauty in solitude, with lush acoustics and painstakingly introspective lyrics making up her musical repertoire. Her ghostly yet hypnotic melodies interweave with touches of new-wave horror to create a Brontë-esque aesthetic. The result? An arrestingly fascinating style of musical production with the visuals to match. This track ‘Places/Plans’ on her debut EP.

An avowed Nick Drake devotee who also has exquisite taste in ambient electronic music, Skullcrusher builds songs that seem to creep into the room, reside for a few vague minutes to make their presence known and then fade away. As a guitarist, she likes layering a few different takes to create a web of sound, and she does the same with her voice. By the end of “Places/Plans,” she’s repeating in layered vocal lines the lyric, “I don’t have any plans tomorrow.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the tenor of the times, Skullcrusher leans into solitude at nearly every turn. “Places/Plans,” she writes in release notes, is her attempt “to communicate the beauty and vulnerability of being alone and what it means to let someone else in to see that.”

“Places/Plans” by Skullcrusher, from her debut released self-titled EP out June 26th on Secretly Canadian. For fans of: Faye Webster, Angel Olsen

The sound of Helen Ballentine aka Skullcrusher is not nearly as violent as her alias might imply. Instead her gentle and almost fragile ambient-infected songwriter folk might break your heart instead of your bones. The artist who performs as Skullcrusher crafts work that on the surface is hardly as menacing as her moniker. The simmering, acoustic guitar-centered songs on her debut EP will not collapse your noggin with aggressive rage, distorted noise or irrational violence. 

Last year’s self-titled debut EP was a blissful testament of beauty and vulnerability and felt like a fitting soundtrack for a more introverted life. And since 2021 doesn’t look quite different for now, the haunting sound of Skullcrusher will most likely comfort us this year as well. A full album is expected over the course of this year and we’re pretty sure it will be wonderful no matter if the pandemic is still raging or not. Ballentine also shared her personal hopes for the year with us:

“You can definitely expect more music from me and perhaps some drawings and visual art. My hopes for this year are to become more comfortable with myself and as a result be able to connect with more people through art.“

Issued by the indie music powerhouse Secretly Canadian Group (home to Angel Olsen, Bon Iver, Moses Sumney, Sharon Van Etten and others), which has an ear and eye for breakout talent, Ballentine’s work aligns with the company’s aesthetic: smart, insightful sounds that draw on classic forms but explore them from inventive new angles.

“Farm” the new song by Skullcrusher, out October 19th on Secretly Canadian.

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Helen Ballentine has announced the next project under her Skullcrusher banner. “The Storm in Summer” EP releases April 9th via Secretly Canadian, and has released the title track as an early preview. The five-track follow-up to her 2020 Skullcrusher EP finds Ballentine reeling from the spotlight after experiencing some unexpected success. As she explained in a statement,

“I wrote ‘Storm in Summer’ after releasing the first Skullcrusher EP. Over that summer I thought a lot about what it means to really put myself out there and share something personal. I felt so vulnerable and overwhelmed by the fact that these songs I had written in private were exposed and likely being misinterpreted or disliked. I think the song really tries to communicate these anxieties in a cathartic way while also leaning more into the beauty of relinquishing part of myself.”

The song begins with a kind of sonic disassociation: A banjo played by Noah Weinman seems to come to the listener from a great distance, as if your next-door neighbour played it on the radio. But after a few seconds, everything comes crashing into place. “And I wonder if I go back home,” Ballentine sings, “Can I hide away?/ Or if I step into the storm/ Is it warm?/ Will I find my place?” The track comes with a music video that shows Ballentine staring out of a rainy window, 

Previously, Skullcrusher shared the lead single from “The Storm in Summer” EP,  track “Song for Nick Drake”. Skullcrusher is the musical project of Los Angeles based songwriter Helen Ballentine

 

Helen Ballentine, who performs as Skullcrusher.

Skullcrusher, the musical moniker of Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Helen Ballentine, has shared a new song, “Song for Nick Drake,” via a video for it. Ballentine spent the fall in rural New York State, working on new material with her collaborator Noah Weinman, and this is another fruit of those sessions. Ballentine and Weinman both directed the video, which seems to have been shot on VHS or some other tape format. Skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. Instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life.

Ballentine had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Song for Nick Drake’ is about my relationship to the music of Nick Drake. It recalls moments in my life that are viscerally intertwined with his music, specifically times spent walking and taking the train. The song is really my homage to music and the times I felt most immersed in it.”

It follows the previous track “Farm,” a new song released in October.  At the same time she also released a cover of Radiohead’s “Lift.” They followed her self-titled debut EP, released in June 2020 via Secretly Canadian

Skullcrusher featured four tracks, written by Ballentine and produced by Noah Weinman, all about the influx of media she consumed after leaving her 9-5 day job. The EP is available digitally and on Vinyl, 

Storm in Summer EP Tracklist:
01. Windshield
02. Songs for Nick Drake
03. Steps
04. Storm in Summer
05. Prefer

Released October 23rd.

I’ve talked about Helen Ballentine and her project Skullcrusher before right here and her latest single Farm is another great opportunity to highlight her wonderful music. Just like her self-titled debut EP which was released this summer, this new song feels like a warm summer breeze (or blanket, to stay in the current season) for your ears. Ballentine’s soft song writing is carried by a certain understatement and tenderness, almost like a brighter alternative to the gloomy ambient folk of Grouper. She keeps things simple and although the end of Farm gets a bit more epic than her previous material it’s still a pretty raw experience. It’s a reflection of childhood and family and that’s exactly the vibe this beautiful mellow song transports.

The name sill doesn’t suit the music but I couldn’t care less about that and I’m very much looking forward to more Skullcrusher action in the not so distant future.

“Farm” the new song by Skullcrusher, out October 19th on Secretly Canadian.

Skullcrusher Skullcrusher EP

Skullcrusher is the project of Los Angeles–based singer-songwriter Helen Ballentine. Her self-titled debut, was announced with “Places/Plans,” a gently strummed, confessional ode that was actually the first song she wrote for the EP. After that, Ballentine shared the music videos for “Day of Show” and “Trace.”

Skullcrusher is, by all accounts, an exploration of the ways you become yourself when you aren’t looking – and how that feels once you start paying attention.

Skullcrusher is not a ruthless metal ensemble, as one might guess from the name. However, what it actually is—the enchanting indie project of Helen Ballentine—is equally as thrilling. She doesn’t crush skulls, but she crushes our hearts. Her self-titled debut EP arrived on Secretly Canadian last month.

Within four songs that total around 11 minutes, Ballentine gives the world a piece of herself. The result is as gentle as it is raw, and as sweet as it is sad. This EP might be overlooked—perhaps due to its brevity, or the fact that it’s Skullcrusher’s debut, or because it was released amid Taylor Swift’s folklore craze or Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher hype. But this EP—like those albums—stands bravely on its own, inhabiting a newfound world, and it’s both idyllic and tragic.

It’s a quiet power; a hushed celebration of the tiny, understated subtleties that culminate into knowing yourself. on her debut ep, songwriter Helen Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs written about – and from – one of life’s in-between grey areas, a stretch of uncertainty and unemployment, and the subsequent search for identity. here, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine grapples with how to communicate her private self to an audience. the four dark, dreamy songs on her debut ep were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. there’s valerie and her week of wonders, the czech new-wave film that went on to inform Skullcrusher’s aesthetic. there’s Ballentine’s love of fantasy and surrealism, her appreciation of the way fantasy novels juxtapose beauty and violence. skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life.

 

Skullcrusher, the project of Los Angeles-based songwriter Helen Ballentine, releases a new single, “Day of Show,” and an accompanying video. The track is off of her debut, self-titled EP, out June 26th on Secretly Canadian, and follows its hypnotic lead single, “Places/Plans.” “Day of Show” glows with melancholy guitar and faint, hovering synth. As the synth rises and percussion joins in, Ballentine’s voice becomes more urgent: “ You decorate the back of the stage with my things // As you sing about who you were// And were you better then // When you didn’t have to tell me how // It all works out in the end.” The accompanying video is both pretty and eerie, layering overly contrasted video clips of Ballentine on top of one another.

“I wrote ‘Day of Show’ on a hot day last summer in my roommate’s bedroom because mine didn’t have AC”, explains Ballentine. “I felt dazed and restless from sitting around in the heat all day. It is a song about feeling trapped in yourself, unable to help yourself and reluctant to let others in. It explores the fragmented behavior and thoughts that arise from this feeling: a kind of daydreaming that can be really creative but also the darkness that also exists there. It’s musically inspired by a lot of the shoegaze music I listen to.”

Ballentine has been playing music for most of her life — piano from age five, guitar since high school — but her song writing didn’t emerge until later. After moving from her home in upstate New York to Los Angeles to study studio art in college, a trajectory she had been on since she was a teenager, Ballentine quit her full-time gallery job. Suddenly faced with a peculiar freedom, she decided to seriously pursue music for the first time.

On the “Skullcrusher” EP, Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs written about – and from – one of life’s in-between grey areas and the subsequent search for identity. The four dark, dreamy songs on the EP, which she worked on alongside producer Noah Weinman, were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. There’s Nick Drake, ambient electronica, and Valerie and her Week of Wonders, the Czech new-wave film that went on to inform Skullcrusher’s aesthetic. There’s Ballentine’s love of fantasy and surrealism, her appreciation of the way fantasy novels juxtapose beauty and violence (perhaps  a nod to her unusual moniker, as well).

“Day of Show” by Skullcrusher, from their upcoming self-titled EP out June 26 on Secretly Canadian.

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Skullcrusher is, by all accounts, an exploration of the ways you become yourself when you aren’t looking – and how that feels once you start paying attention. It’s a quiet power; a hushed celebration of the tiny, understated subtleties that culminate into knowing yourself. On her debut EP, songwriter Helen Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs written about – and from – one of life’s in-between gray areas, a stretch of uncertainty and unemployment, and the subsequent search for identity. Here, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine grapples with how to communicate her private self to an audience.

Ballentine has been playing music for most of her life — piano from age five, guitar since high school — but her song writing didn’t emerge until later. After moving from her home in upstate New York to Los Angeles to study studio art in college, Ballentine was working full-time at a Los Angeles gallery, poised to continue onto the trajectory of visual art she had been on since she was a teenager. Instead, it didn’t feel right, and she quit.

Suddenly faced with a peculiar freedom, Ballentine decided, somehow both confidently and tentatively, to seriously pursue music for the first time. While nannying on the side to make ends meet, she wrote “Places/Plans,” her first song for Skullcrusher, a little over a year ago. Despite her extensive background in visual arts, Ballentine suddenly found song writing to be the best avenue for her artistic visions, an easy way for her to organically discover what it as she was trying to say.

“I was feeling very strongly about my lack of a career path, both insecure and confident at the same time,” Ballentine explains. “But there was also a lot of confidence that arose out of that process because I was really able to spend time with myself, and the things I love.”

In music, as in her visual art practices, Ballentine is drawn to conflicting pieces of a puzzle; how hard and soft meet, and the intersection of certainty and ambiguity. Ballentine would tinker on music in pieces, feeling like she wasn’t accomplishing anything day after day, and then suddenly realize she had been assembling songs. That experience felt formative, and the resulting EP, which she worked on alongside producer Noah Weinman, is about what it means to feel like you’re not doing anything, but finding immense meaning and depth within that, too.

The four dark, dreamy songs on her debut EP were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. There’s Valerie and her Week of Wonders, the Czech new-wave film that went on to inform Skullcrusher’s aesthetic. There’s Ballentine’s love of fantasy and surrealism, her appreciation of the way fantasy novels juxtapose beauty and violence.

Ballentine was also fully immersed in the world of Nick Drake, watching and reading anything she could about his song writing. Another sonic anchor came from ambient electronica, which provided her with a shared vocabulary with her new band. And as Skullcrusher, Ballentine is decisive and immediate with the way she uses a sparse arrangement, fitting minimal sounds together in a way that creates a fuller space.

On the opening “Places/Plans,” Ballentine sighs, “Come in, the window’s open and I’m lying alone,” which feels fitting for the entirety of the EP – Ballentine invites the listener into the depths her personal, intense solitude. “I put so much emphasis on this private self, and all of these things that I love that are my own, and as soon as I let someone else into that, it’s really hard,” Ballentine says. “But I’m also someone who wants to let someone else into that. It’s sort of this back-and-forth about wanting to connect to other people but also being a little bit afraid of that.”

Skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. Instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life.

“Day of Show” by Skullcrusher, from their upcoming self-titled EP out June 26th on Secretly Canadian.

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Skullcrusher is not, as you might expect, some black metal band from Scandinavia, but instead LA-based songwriter Helen Ballentine.
She will release her debut four track EP via Secretly Canadian on the 26th June and the stunning “Places/Plans” is the lead from it, a sparse and gorgeously intimate song that is all the more powerful and compelling for its minimalist arrangement. In the case of Places / Plans the debut single by Skullcrusher, all of these elements are brought together. The video is carefully set up and washed with a haunting home-filmed haziness the re-watching of old family footage, with the lyrics incorporated book-style, and the song itself is compiled of a pretty loneliness.

The song and music video work side by side. It’s just one camera shot of a back garden, the house being white and grand and likely host to supernatural goings on. Skullcrusher sits on a blanket in the middle of the beaten lawn, having a picnic with herself like a child having an imaginary tea party with their toys. Another Skullcrusher sits swinging moodily on a swing, and a third stands on the steps by the backdoor sawing a piece of wood. They are clones, fragments of herself, lost in solitary thought. All while this is taking place, the lyrics appear at the bottom of the recording in gothic font- journal style questions such as ‘Does it matter if I’m a really good friend? And ‘Can I make it up there as I am?.

Skullcrusher is the musical project of LA based songwriter Helen Ballentine “Places/Plans” by Skullcrusher, from her forthcoming self-titled EP out June 26th on Secretly Canadian.