The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses Will Salmon , June 18th, 2021 08:13

Following last year's award-winning God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out Of It, Montreal's Backxwash returns fiercer than ever, finds Will Salmon

On her third album Ashanti Mutinta (aka Backxwash) stares down death and depression, but comes out fighting with backup from a host of underground faces. It’s a thrilling follow-up to the rapper’s 2020 Polaris award-winning breakthrough, God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out Of It.

That record was a short, sharp, and sonically devastating reinvention that saw Backxwash shift from her earlier trap sound to a heavier style influenced as much by metal as hip-hop, while the lyrics took on a more personal tone, reflecting on her experiences as a trans woman.

I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses continues in this vein but is – remarkably – even more potent. Where God... was, in part, about the possibility of redemption, this is steeped in rage and despair, longing for relief but never quite finding it. “My mind’s stuck in a torture chamber,” she gasps in the opening moments of ‘WAIL OF THE BANSHEE’, a track built on an atonal metal riff and a wall of howling voices, before descending into a hell of drink, drugs, and suicidal ideation. You quickly realise the dreadful irony in the opening track ‘PURPOSE OF PAIN’ – a slowly degrading loop of some unknown guru repeating, “In that sense, a little bit of pain is a good thing.”

Likewise the title track touches on misogyny, the ache of a lapsed religious faith (“The Lord has witnessed the many swords in my rib cage / Just when I needed him most, I get ignored”) and her feelings of isolation “exiled from my sisters”, while the infernal industrial beat and a death metal chorus by Black Dresses’ Ada Rook slam you in the face with the full force of a Greyhound bus.

But while this is an undeniably heavy record, it's also an accessible one. Like its predecessors, it’s refreshingly paired back, running to just thirty-three minutes, while Mutinta’s love of classic hip-hop is felt throughout. On ‘IN THY HOLY NAME’ (yes, this is very much an all caps track title album), her delivery drifts from bouts of dense word play to a final punch drunk litany that’s swallowed up by squalls of electronic noise.

‘SONGS OF SINNERS’, by contrast, features one of Backxwash’s most fluid verses, alongside a gorgeous, alternately sweet and sinister guest vocal from Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis. The closing ‘BURN TO ASHES’, meanwhile, re-contextualises a pair of samples from fellow Montreal-dwellers Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Static’, transforming that song’s eerie slow burn into a furious and thrilling backdrop for a vocal that moves from defiance to uncertainty and back again.

This is an album about suffering and it ends with no easy answers or trite lessons to be learned – if anything ‘BURN TO ASHES’ suggests that its protagonist’s emotional life is more unsettled than ever. And yet, in expressing her pain so directly and viscerally, Backxwash’s music offers a sense of genuine catharsis and connection. It is, in its own haunting way, strangely comforting.