“Can you keep my secret? His left hand shut me up. Listen close, I said NO. The moon was there to watch. Witnessed what he did to me.”
Part of the definition of an exorcism is the eviction of demons that have terrorised a person’s soul. Ever since she was sexually assaulted in the middle of the night as a young woman, Swedish musician Jenny Wilson has been plagued by her traumatic rape experience and has been waiting for the right moment to unleash her anger and despair and finally find catharsis.
The timing of this album’s creation is perfect. Exorcism is Wilson’s fifth album, so she has gained the songwriting experience to truly reflect her haunting past creatively. She has also recently survived many breast cancer scares between this and her last album Demand The Impossible! and is braver than ever to tackle the most controversial of subjects. Furthermore with the “Me Too” campaign in full flow, her confessional account will be motivational for the other victims of assault that have kept their secret locked in the basement of the past.
What’s really effective about Exorcism is that it doesn’t hide behind metaphors. It’s really upfront about the moment of abuse and the psychological effects that a victim suffers in the aftermath. Musically it’s also very suffocating in its choice of dark, disorientating and mischievous synths, enclosing bass and a snappy drum machine that sound like threatening footsteps. During moments it sounds like Fever Ray and Roísín Murphy collaborating with horror soundtrack maestros John Carpenter and Jerry Goldsmith.
Right from the off the lyrics are bold and get to the point. The first track is called ‘Rapin’ and it accounts clearly the night of the incident: “Walking home. Too drunk. Been dancing at a club. Did you pick me because nobody else is around? He made me do things. My mind was drifting around.” Wilson then describes the compulsory medical screening afterwards; blood pressure, urinating into a cup and having to remove her clothes again as a continuation of the nightmare.
While ‘Rapin’ acts as a factual document of the incident with Wilson processing the moment and singing passively. Follow up ‘Lo’Hi” shows the Swede unleashing her anger at every part of the rape, even to the point of accusing the moon – her only witness – of failing to intervene: “Distant white. You blind balloon. Just didn’t give a shit.” Wilson’s expression of the words Low and High show the frantic and confusing emotion she had at this time in her life.
‘Respect is Universal’ tells the next procedural moment she had to endure, with Wilson having to identify her attacker out of a police line-up but unable to figure which one of them it was. “Could have been anyone? Not a monster. Just a guy of society.” This then leads to a discussion on who’s really to blame for this kind of attacks? The industry? The power? The body?
Exorcism works really well as an album because it clearly narrates the process a sexual assault victim goes through and how one moment can spiral a domino effect. With one of the most effective tracks being the penultimate “It’s Love (I’m scared)”, which demonstrates the shocking reality that it’s hard for a sexually violated victim to commit to physical intimacy, even with somebody they love. Due to the reoccurring playback being imprinted on their mind.
But Jenny Wilson is a brave soul who has conquered many frightening hardships in her life including her cancer diagnosis, so she shows strength with the title track of the album stating that she could plan her revenge on the attacker (“I’ll find your address and figure out a plan“) and looking to the future on ‘Forever Is A Long Time’ she is speaking the words optimistically: “It’s gonna be alright.”
Exorcism is out now on Gold Medal Recordings.