Backxwash’s third album is an attention-grabbing scream into the void, both a warning and call for help that is as cathartic as it is chaotic.
I want to give Backxwash a hug if I ever get to meet her in person. Not because I think she needs it but because I do. I’d like to absorb just a fraction of her presence of mind and power to channel and articulate pain and trauma the way she does on I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES. For the follow-up to last year’s Polaris Music Prize-winning God Has Nothing to Do With It Leave Him Out Of It Ashanti Mutinta doubles down on her honesty about pain and suffering, dependencies and depression, constructing an industrial horrorcore behemoth of an album, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in popular music since the Downward Spiral.
I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES doesn’t tamper with Backxwash’s musical template of melding metal’s ferocity to hip-hop beats run through techno-industrial noise filters. But where her last record offers listeners glimmers of redemption and forgiveness, I LIE HERE BURIED… quashes any hope of relief from the pain and suffering fueling her rage. Visceral is an understatement when it comes to the thunderous, thumping title track featuring Ada Rook, formerly of Black Dresses. It is seething with vitriol and vile creatures — demons, devils, and worst of all, deranged righteous bigots. On “WAIL OF THE BANSHEE,” she bewails “My mind’s stuck in a torture chamber,” serving as something of a warning for those about to enter the portal these ten songs open up. The album isn’t as much a narrative arc as it is a sustained seismogram of explosive waves. The finale “BURN TO ASHES” remarkably ups the ante from an album that’s already been redlining it from the outset. After a solemn, Morricone-inflected intro, the track cracks open and unleashes one of Backxwash’s now-trademark whiplash performances: “I never talk about how I am feeling / I don’t wanna bother or make you feel nervous / If I do go in silence, let it be known that I tried all I can / Fuck all my enemies hard as I can / Fuck all these papers who call me a man / When the time comes, it fades to black, I know where I’m at / I just light the fumes, boom, and spark it as I burn to ash.”
For all of the musical merit on I Lie Here Buried…, like contributions and production work from the likes of sound designer Lauren Bousfield (“IN MY HOLY NAME”) and clipping. (“BLOOD IN THE WATER”), it’s the very un-musical prologue that resonates most loudly. “PURPOSE OF PAIN” is built from a looping, unidentified spoken-word sample that begins decaying as soon as it starts: The purpose of pain is to get our attention that something is wrong, protect us from further damage and to request care,” explains a disembodied voice before adding, “It’s in this sense that a little bit of pain is a good thing.” I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES serves all these purposes and then some: it is an attention-grabbing scream into the void, both a warning and call for help that is as cathartic as it is chaotic.