Backxwash Makes Rage Beautiful on 'I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses'
Published Jun 17, 2021Following her Polaris Music Prize-winning 2020 album, God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It, Backxwash has delivered a follow-up seething with deep rage and pain. Ashanti Mutinta's hard, industrial production is a deliciously heavy backdrop to her honest, intimate bars on I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses, which retains its intensity from start to finish.
The full-length starts off with excruciating catharsis. Ada Rook, formerly of Black Dresses, lends her chilling scream to title track "I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses," another success from a songwriting duo that have already proven to make a good team (as heard on "Spells" from God Has Nothing to Do with This).
Music like Backxwash's sounds like a rebellion against the established social and stylistic norms because that's exactly what it is. Mutinta raps about substance use, mental illness, gender identity, sexuality and more subjects rarely heard in such widely celebrated music. But she's out here saying it, wearing her heart on her sleeve in a world and music industry that has historically ignored people like her.
That's why it matters that Backxwash's lyrics and sound are dark and threatening, always in synergy with one another. That's what listeners have come to expect from Mutinta's writing: it's always beautifully curated, stylistically consistent, poignant, and — above all — refreshingly real. She shows listeners how it feels to walk through her world, and the space she creates on these 10 tracks is oozes fear and anxiety, but miraculously uplifts through pure emotion and authenticity.
Samples from civil rights activist Angela Davis and homophobic Christian preachers (on "In Thy Holy Name," no less) emphasize all elements of Mutinta's identity, as she grapples with her history as a trans woman who was raised in a heavily religious environment in Zambia before moving to Canada as a teenager.
The version of God addressed through Backxwash tracks is malevolent, punitive and oppressive, more of a representation of white cisheteronormative patriarchy and colonial Judeo-Christian systems than of any sort of reverent spirituality. If there is anything revered through her lyrics, it's the strength of demons and devils who rally and rage against being controlled by these systems — possibly a way for Mutinta to channel a sense of empowerment. It makes sense, then, that her beats and words are both beautiful and evil, alluring listeners with their eerie melodies and grating whirrs and screams.
God Has Nothing to Do with This is a tough release to follow, but I Lie Here makes it clear that Backxwash is still on her ascent. She has brought back the best parts of nu metal and repackaged it in the coolest and most operatic way possible.
It feels like Mutinta wrote this record while going through a year of intense self-reflection, suffering and realization. That anguish lives on the record, interpreted through crunchy snares, blown-out bass and scratchy screams that simulate the feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed. It creates the feeling of being so enraged you're exhausted, of being so tiny you're afraid, of being powerless against the structures that hurt you. Songs open with sirens, chimes, and wailing to create a sense of foreboding that never goes away.
I Lie Here asks more questions than it can answer, but the record retains a narrative arc that shows how Backxwash continues to grow, change and challenge the world around her. A processing of powerlessness and reclaiming of that power through self-expression, I Lie Here presents audiences with a less restrained version of Mutinta's songwriting and vocal delivery. It's an absolute gift to industrial hardcore, hip-hop and metal — somehow succeeding in all three genres at the same time while delivering lyrical and sonic gems along the way. (Ugly Hag Records)