Los Angeles-based electronic duo Spike Hellis, comprised of Cortland Gibson and Elaine Chang, began their tour with Kontravoid and Adult. on Wednesday, April 13. The band is touring in support of their first full-length, self-titled album on April 1, 2022, under their imprint Over-Pop. Alice Teeple of Post-Punk calls it a “phenomenal debut.”
Incorporating a wide range of elements from industrial, new beat, and techno to freestyle, electro, and EBM, their dark, experimental pop is sure to make you move to the pain. It wouldn’t be EBM if the overtones of manipulation, submission, and suffering weren’t prominent, and here, they certainly are. However, one of the many things that separate Spike Hellis from their contemporaries is the clever sampling and sound design. Their sequences are dynamically crafted and move effortlessly between all hard-dance subgenres.
‘Spike Hellis (S/T) is preceded by their first EP ‘Crisis Talk,’ of which its material contents seemed to seep into reality in the form of a widespread global pandemic—all as they were getting ready to put it out into the world. Rather than playing a release show, they put the tape out digitally while under lockdown in their downtown LA. .apartment. With tour abruptly cancelled, they immediately got to work on the forthcoming album.
Since then, Spike Hellis have gotten back on the road and completed their first U.S. tour in fall 2021, playing in good company with fellow artists and friends such as Choir Boy, Fearing, Soft Kill, Plack Blague, Riki, Nuovo Testamento, Twin Tribes, and Body of Light. They wrapped up their tour by playing day three of Substance Festival at The Belasco Theater in DTLA. Earlier this year they completed a successful headlining tour, which wrapped up in Los Angeles on March 4, before packing up again to head out in support of Adult. and Kontravoid across the U.S. in April and May.
More about the ’Spike Hellis’ LP
Los Angeles based electronic duo Spike Hellis comprises of Cortland Gibson and Elaine Chang, who got their start on Halloween of 2019. They will release their first full-length, self-titled album in April 2022, under their imprint Over-Pop.
After the global pandemic and social dissension shattered the band’s initial plan to release three back-to-back EPs in 2020, they decided to take a break. They shelved their pre-existing songs and began thinking of new ways to approach their writing process. Without any live performances in sight, the band moved their studio from their rehearsal space in Downtown Los Angeles to an 8×8 spare room in the San Gabriel Valley. With no rush to resurface, the two began tinkering shoulder-to-shoulder in their new suburban respite. With so much time to revise and polish, the music they were writing became more dynamic and intentional. Though they did not set out to create an album, the libraries were filling up, there were no patterns left to chain on the sequencers or any space to save new patches to the synths—and there are many synths. Narrowing from an initial fourteen tracks down to eight final tracks, they had their self-titled debut ready to mix and master.
The album chaotically shifts pace back and forth; the songs running into one another with no time in-between. The record opens with Control (Rage), a layered, firm-handshake body-music track designed to hijack the amygdala. The kick drum resembles the steady flash of a panic button. You press it, but nothing happens—no relief. The irregular placement of snare matches Chang’s cries of dysregulation, spiraling red-eyed after having lost command asking, “Will I regain control?” While presented as a song of despair, optimism and determination shine through in the final line as the question is taken back and turned into a statement, “Watch me regain control”. This is a theme that permeates throughout the album: Taking challenging times of despair and coming through the other end with hope and optimism. ‘Spike Hellis’ (S/T) was made with the intention to feel jolting. Techno-tinged Flight is an SH-101 track in which lyrical instructions for escaping a dream are chanted over the famous rubber band sound, with claps paying homage to Charlie’s Spacer Woman. Slices, the funky first single leads into its supplementary counterpart, Stitches. Footsteps grow louder until it opens into a dark waltz. Samples of William S. Burroughs cackling ring out over Emulator arpeggios until we arrive at Teardrops (Kisses). While it is perhaps the most light-hearted track on the album sonically, themes of social punishment and isolation push through the surface to reveal conflict at its core. Chang and Gibson trade off cries of shame and humiliation while distorted synths, swirling in polyrhythms, close out Side A.
Side B continues with the song Help—a straight-forward, freestyle number with a pinch of synth-pop. The disjointed Cause of Death may be the most challenging song on the record. Floating between major and minor scales and heavy handed sampling, this track takes Spike Hellis from the dance floor to the speedway. Lacing each verse with the line “I never rush, but I like to speed”, a nod to taking risks and enduring hardships in favor of triumph in the long run. Arguably the biggest cut from the record is the closing track Mouth. This minimal track winds it’s way through a four-verse build. Chang’s pitch-shifted voice softly narrates a catch-and-release scenario in which baiting fish is used as an allegory for manipulation. “Baby look at you, setting your hook in my mouth – Reel me in, rip it out”.
Since finishing the album, Spike Hellis has gotten back on the road, completing their first US tour in fall 2021, followed by a west coast tour in early 2022. They’ve performed in good company with fellow artists and friends such as Choir Boy, Fearing, Soft Kill, Plack Blague, Riki, Nuovo Testamento, Pixel Grip, Twin Tribes and Body of Light. This spring, they will be serving as a supporting act alongside Kontravoid on ADULT.’s 2022 North American tour.
Blasting their bleak outlook and spreading their gospel of disenchantment and sarcasm, Spike Hellis announces their arrival.
‘Spike Hellis’ track listing
1. Control (Rage)
5. Teardrops (Kisses)
7. Cause of Death