A few weeks ago I saw MXLX live. It was a show that show him struggle with sound, and audience, issues. Despite this he delivered a set that was equally brutal and tender. Having been a fan for longer than I care to remember, the set was new to me. This peaked my interest even more. Now MXLX has released a studio version of that set in the form of ‘Burden’.
From the offset ‘Burden’ possess the same jarring quality the live set did, expect this time you can hear everything a bit clearer. The music is acrid, mordant with hints of redemption. Throughout this set he combined dubby soundscapes, swelling organs, broken techno. This is evident on ‘Do Not Slow Your Rope’. Live it was a bubbling monster, but here it’s more contained. Not tamer, but still on the leash. At its core this is just Bristol industrial Dub. Think a more pissed off Young Echo and you’re on the right tracks. Here the vocals are monosyllabic gutter slams. Their actual meaning doesn’t matter, its more about the tone MXLX evokes. That tone is lairy and narked off about, pretty much, everything. As the basslines thunder, the beats become more skittish. This gives everything an off-kilter vibe that is, pretty much, an absolute joy. ‘How Many More Crimes is too Many’ sees MXLX crooning, drenched in reverb. Lyrically it feels like stream of consciousness just spewing from MXLX, but instead the usual of dull poetic diatribes, it is full of spikey wisdom. The final third is glorious with shimmering synths and a hard-repetitive beat.
As ‘Burden’ progresses, it flits with techno, grime, dub and noise motifs to create a patchwork that ranks itself with his best work to date. And this is what MXLX does so effortlessly. His ability to mix styles to create something that feels cohesive, whilst being slightly out of step with his peers should be admired. The album ends with ‘Hi-Speed Broadsword’. This is the longest track on the album at eight and a half minutes. It is an unrelenting barrage of buzzsaw basslines, skittering beats and MXLX’s unyielding vocal assault.
Since 2018 MXLX has been on hiatus, but this is his second album of the year. Rumour has it that there are four more in the pipeline before the year is out, maybe more. Who knows? But what is clear is that this time away hasn’t distracted from his ability to deliver forward thinking music that slaps. ‘Burden’ is a true soundtrack for these times. Terrifying, but his subtle hints of hope.