Behind Skullcrusher is singer-songwriter Helen Ballentine. What she wanted to capture in Quiet the Room was not the innocence of her childhood, as it is so often portrayed, but the intense complexity of it.
Helen Ballentine’s spellbinding first full-length albumQuiet the Roomis the sound of a window opening, a barrierdissolving. Across these fourteen tracks, the outside world seeps in and the inside world crawls out. The result is astunning and quietly moving work that reflects the journeys we take through the physical and spiritual realms ofourselves in order to show up for the world.
While writing the album in the summer of 2021, Ballentine drew inspiration from her childhood home in Mount Vernon,NY. What she set out to capture onQuiet the Roomwas not the innocence of childhood, as it is so often portrayed,but the intense complexity of it. Past and present merge Escher-like in this dreamlike space laced with elements offantasy, magic, and mystery. Musically, this translates into a sound that feels somehow weighty and ephemeral all atonce, like a time lapse of copper corroding.
To capture the effortless blend of electronic, ambient, folk, and rock, Ballentine and her collaborator Noah Weinmanbrought in producer Andrew Sarlo to record at Chicken Shack studio in Upstate New York, close to where Ballentinegrew up. “We wanted every song to have that little twinkle, but also a sense of crumbling,” she says. These songsthrum with moments of anxiety that boil over into moments of peace, as on lead single “Whatever Fits Together,”which chugs to a ragged start before the gears catch and ease. On “It’s Like a Secret,” Ballentine struggles toconnect and let people in, recognizing that no one can ever fully know our inner worlds and that to understand eachother is to cross a barrier and leave a part of ourselves behind. And yet, on closing track “You are my House,” shefinds a way to reach out. “You are the walls and floors of my room,” she sings in perfect, hopeful harmony.
As the album cover invites, these are dollhouse songs to which we bend a giant eye, peering into the laminate,luminous world that Ballentine has created. Like a kid constructing a shelter in a patch of sharp brambles, shereminds us that beauty and terror can exist in the same place. The complexities of childhood are so often overlooked,but through these private yet generous songs, she gives new weight to our earliest memories, widening the frame forus—even opening a window.
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