It’s not often I come across an artist that completely blows me away on first listen, and it’s about time I got familiar with Ashanti Mutinta aka Backxwash, a talented Zambian- Canadian and Montreal-based visionary artist that might have come through with one of my favourite so far this year. I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES is her brand new album, a striking, loud and poignant body of work that talks about angst, her experiences of being a trans woman, especially in a world controlled by dangerous people, bigotry, and hatred. It’s a heavy listen, influenced by everything from industrial music to heavy-metal and hip-hop. The pure energy and almost rage felt within her raps, and the features that also add a depth to the music, is what makes her such an engaging listen.
I’m not gonna lie, from the get-go, this album freaked me the fuck out. I was listening to it loud, at night with headphones on, and the intro track “PURPOSE OF PAIN” was genuinely uncomfortable to listen to. Like why is that voice talking about the purpose of pain in such a robotic voice? It does set the tone for this album, which has this hellish, dominant soundscape that is just so enthralling. “WAIL OF THE BANSHEE” feat. SurgeryHead is an heavy track, with distorted guitar-leads, a thumping, trap-influenced beat and an incredibly vocal performance from Backxwash, who pours her heart out on this one. “I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES” features a freakish, screamo-like hook from Ada Rook. That second verse is heavy, with visceral and quite explicit. “TERROR PACKETS” featuring the Censored Dialogue is my favourite track on the album. From the menacing energy of both emcees, to the infectious hook, this track captures the intensity and craziness of her music. The beat is dominated by these wailing, distorted synths or guitar leads and a bass-heavy beat that just makes me want to lash my head from side to side. Seeing this live would be absolutely nuts. The lyrics however are heavy – “Dad can you help me afford transition? / Disowned through a cell phone / The look in his face, soul displaced / He don’t know me no more”. The heaviness and severity of these lyrics are pretty shocking, but it’s her reality and I assume the reality of a lot of other people who are thinking of going through that transition. It shouldn’t have to be seen as brave to just want to be who you are, but in a world so fucked and attitudes so backwards, it’s truly so inspiring to see someone speak so openly about their experiences, and we all need to do better to listen and encourage inclusivity. “IN THY HOLY NAME” featuring Lauren Bousfield is another stellar track, with a Bible-referencing first verse and quite a politically charged second verse from Backxwash, who is unapologetic with her thoughts, painting a vivid and visceral anti-establishment portrait through her intricate lyricism. “BLOOD IN THE WATER” is cool, while the distortion on this track is complemented by a melodic hook from Sad13 and an excellent guitar feature from Ada Rook. The soulful, tribal sample on “666 IN LUXAXA” is crazy, while “NINE HELLS” is a masterful, drug-referencing track that features the same twisted wackiness as the other tracks on the album. “BURN TO ASHES” featuring Michael Go is another relentless track, with wailing guitar leads and a dynamic guitar lead that brings so much intensity to this incredible closer. She truly wears her heart on her sleeve on this album. The energy he brings with her vocal and tonal range is something to be enamored by, and let’s not ignore the fact that she produced a good chunk of this album (with additional credits for clipping. on “BLOOD IN THE WATER”, Nowhere2Run on “NINE HELLS” and Will Owen Bennett on “BURN TO ASHES”).
Overall, Backxwash has exceeded all expectations on I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES, with an album that is equally as loud and visceral as it is delicate and vulnerable, perfectly capturing a balance between sanity and insanity on record. Her ability to create a cohesive body of work that is intricate and quite extraordinary in sound makes her new album one of the most exciting releases of the year so far, and she’s only getting started! Go support the shit out of this album.