The Secretly Canadian Newsletter

Skullcrusher, the project of LA-based songwriter Helen Ballentine, releases a new single/video, “Trace.” The track is off of her self-titled debut EP, out digitally today on Secretly Canadian. 12” physical copies of the EP will be available on October 23rd. Following “Day of Show” and lead single “Places/Plans,” “Trace” is energetic, and in Ballentine’s words, “a really cathartic song that I love playing live because I can really rock out to it.” Despite more somber lyrics, Ballentine sounds fresh and reassured. The accompanying video, directed by  Silken Weinberg and Jeremy Reynoso, reflects the song’s cleansing energy. Ballentine and friends, dressed in medieval costumes, have a fireside celebration. 

“I wrote ‘Trace’ about my last relationship. It represents the darkness of that relationship but also feels like a celebration of all the positive changes that followed. It was also one of my favorite songs to make. I recorded it with my current partner Noah and it was the last song we did for the EP. We finished it in one day at my home studio. We didn’t have any idea how it would turn out when we started, we just kind of improvised all the parts and ultimately kept most of what we recorded. It was a really special day for me because I had just finished my first project and come so far from the period of my life ‘Trace is written about.”


Ballentine has been playing music for most of her life — piano from age five, guitar since high school — but her songwriting 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 gray 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).



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