Backxwash

Heads on Sticks 2020

What can one say about this year that isn’t stating the blindin’ obvious and centred in every end-of-year appraisal across every blog and publication out there? The COVID pandemic has dominated all spheres of life in such a profound way that even the cast-iron doctrines of unbridled capitalism screeched to a halt, the free-market fanatics themselves enforcing half the nation’s workforce to pause their labour extraction. After years of Brexit bludgeoning and its resulting social division, the Coronavirus was an oddly unifying experience, cutting through the dichotomies of Leavers and Remainers and inadvertently ushering a feeling of collective experience and responsibility, a shared duty to each other long felt dormant after decades of Thatcherite atomisation. Everyone’s lives have been struck with deep uncertainty, many stung by the painful losses of loved ones and near-unanimous despair at the political ineptitude causing further chaos.

Spending months in your own company, or trapped in problematic living environments, demonstrated just how vital a lifeline music is. The arts, long been neglected in the austerity wasteland and held with contempt from a grey and joyless, right-wing faction who abhor the empathy and imagination it fosters, was suddenly held up as the indispensable joy it always was, the deep, human need for creative expression and escapism breaking through the hollow priorities of a society dictated by unbridled capital. The sudden absence of live music and events wrought some urgent perspective on the preciousness of our creative spaces and independent venues, and did make one ask the question: had we taken it all for granted?

Late-stage capitalism rarely affords the time to stop and think, and the lockdown, so alien to our daily routines and established orthodoxies, unleashed a major space for deep contemplation. The cultural reckoning against racial injustice spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement inspiring direct action against authority on a scale unseen since the civil rights era, but to be vigilant against clumsily wading into ineffectual social media campaigns that solve nothing (Heads on Sticks was guilty of this). The grim stats on streaming revenues for artists in light of the Spotify Wrapped rush have raised much-needed awareness as to how we can responsibly consume music that the artists we love spent time and money on, and to keep an eye on the venues who missed out on Arts funding and staying afloat on Crowdfunders. The systemic failure that enabled Trump his ascendency, and an emboldened Far-Right in the U.K., cannot be considered put to bed now that Biden is the president-elect, to quote Ocasio-Cortez, “you’re not going back to brunch”.

When artists have been the soundtrack to such a tumultuous year, the relationship one has with their work takes on an even deeper significance. The songs collated are the hopelessly personal, utterly subjective. Not some hierarchal ‘best-of’ or exclusive document of heavy rotation, but simply the 25 tracks which rattled around The Head’s static ridden box. I hope you enjoy as much I did!

Here’s to a fortunate 2021, and thanks for the music!

Tom (a fan)

Check the Heads on Sticks 2020 list here!

Spit ‘n’ Static! 1020 Radio #17

“Rats mutated from the acid rain, feel that radiation going into my brain!”

6̷9̷4̷1̷0̷ ̷6̷9̷4̷1̷0̷ ̷0̷3̷9̷3̷2̷ ̷0̷3̷9̷3̷2̷ ̷4̷2̷1̷7̷5̷ ̷4̷2̷1̷7̷5̷ ̷7̷2̷9̷6̷4̷ ̷7̷2̷9̷6̷4̷ ̷7̷9̷3̷8̷3̷ ̷7̷9̷3̷8̷3̷ ̷3̷2̷6̷4̷4̷ ̷3̷2̷6̷4̷4̷ ̷4̷1̷9̷6̷8̷ ̷4̷1̷9̷6̷8̷ ̷8̷1̷6̷0̷0̷ ̷8̷1̷6̷0̷0̷ ̷2̷7̷6̷4̷5̷ ̷2̷7̷6̷4̷5̷ ̷0̷1̷6̷6̷8̷ ̷0̷1̷6̷6̷8̷… 1020 Radio picked up some shortwave intelligence today, the Spit ‘n’ Static! signal beaming the usual synthpunk sludge with queasy interference from the mysterious numbers at 4625 kHz! E̷͈͗̊̆̔̈̔̀̌͠n̸̘̥̠̠͔̑́̓d̶̟̥͖͈̆̓̄̿̍̅́͘ ̸̯͙̖̞̳͕͚̂̀̀̒̃͑̈́ŏ̴̧̢̡̠͔̠͖f̵̢̢͖̜̬̘̞̽̓̓͜ ̴̳͈̥̑̀ẗ̴̛͈̮̙́́͒̃̑̕r̴̨̩̺͖̆̍͗̓̇́͝ä̸̛̛̙́̈́̋̒͌n̸̨̨̛̛̛͍̥̓́̍̇͠͝s̸̡̻͙̩̭͚̦͖̋̏̋̂̀̅̅̃̕m̵͙̜̿̄ǐ̶͕͗͜s̴̟̺̦̮̀̄͊̔̕s̷̨͕̿̓̑̈́̃̾̊̓i̸̡̛̗̺̲͒͘͝ȏ̸̧̡̰͉̖̪̯̞̋͋͒̈́͐͐͝ņ̷͍̲͇̳͍͒́̎̂̀͋̈́ͅ

TV nightmares by Haydiroket

Backxwash ‘God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It’

‘Witchcraft’ is a term historically defined by Western colonists and labelled on to any custom or culture which didn’t adhere to Christian dogma. Forced to dilute their potent African spirituality to please their British oppressors, the Chewa and Tumbuka people of Southern-Central Africa have co-opted elements of Protestantism in their centuries-old Gule Wamkulu, a ritual dance performed by initiated men of the Nyau brotherhood. Originally celebrating the integration of the communities young men into adulthood, the many masks and costumes that represent evil spirits, wild animals or immoral temptation are slowly losing their original purpose and played out for the entertainment of boring, white tourists.

“I think you mad cos you lost control, you want me to fall in line on the X’s and O’s” spits Backxwash on the condemning ‘Black Sheep’, a painful denunciation of family betrayal during their non-binary discovery. Sampling the Gule Wamkulu practice, Zambian born Ashanti Mutinta performs their own ritual of catharsis and grapples with one of the key recurring themes of their work: the demons that gnaw inside members of the trans community on their arduous road to embracing their identity. Now based in Montreal, Backxwash has been cutting a unique brand of horrorcore hip hop full of hypnotic beats and warped production that’s both aggressive yet introspective. Releasing their second album proper via the queer label Grimalkin Records, Mutinta channels church choir music and televangelical sermons from their youth to reach further into the heart of the haunted wood, and themselves.

God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It (derived from a line in Spanish horror film Verónica) is a white hot flame of cavernous bombast and hellish evocations, sharing similarities with Ministry’s Psalm: 69 both with artwork and heretical aura, establishing the dark tone of the record. Ozzy Osbourne’s wail of doom from ‘Black Sabbath’ circles around echoing drums and whispering incantations illustrating Backxwash’s spiritual conflict, the deep desire to sin against those who’ve sinned you. Mall Date lends their vocals to the bowel-churning ‘Into The Void’, Nine Inch Nails’s ‘Reptile’ grinds and scrapes against a massive droning guitar attack capturing the songs visceral examination of paranoia and vulnerability when navigating a world where every street corner lurks prejudice with a knife. Backxwash breathes new life into a sample as ubiquitous to hip hop as Led Zeppelin’s ‘When the Levee Breaks’, John Bonham’s famous heavy percussion colliding with eerie keyboards scoring Mutinta’s moving letter to their younger bother, detailing their fears and anxieties in the starkly intimate ‘Adolescence’.

Backxwash’s expert production remain as fresh and creative as prior releases Black Sailor Moon and Deviancy. The brittle beats of ‘Spells’ are devilishly seductive, Devi McCallion‘s raspy guest vocals are stretched and elasticated, imbued with occult-like, midnight howls. Mutinta’s love for Missy Elliot’s chunky rhythmic sonics shine on the furious ‘Amen’, a spiky stab of venom at religious greed and corruption. Inviting fatherfake and Skunk Anansie’s Skin to produce the respective Heaven and Hell interludes provide welcome shifts in mood, the latter utilising ‘The Lady in the Radiator’ from Eraserhead to chilling effect, and Will Owen Bennett’s studio contributions end the album on a note of faded, gospel contemplation, a wounded but defiant hope both personally and for the fucked-up world we’re all in, summed-up beautifully with the exclamation “feel like you lost a son but you gained a daughter”.

Backxwash’s sophomore effort achieves an extraordinary double feat of instilling further density and ethereal intensity to their volatile sound yet still maintaining a punchy, punk urgency. God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It is a fantastic and fascinating mesh of Gothic murk and industrial might which explores the themes of ‘forgiveness’ and facing ones torments with guttural yet poetic insight.