As an artist who was always famed for pushing the boundaries, Arca doesn’t deviate from his experimental path on his self-titled album. By introducing his own vocals to the mix for the first time, Arca’s avant-garde compositions and the accompanying videos push Alejandro Ghersi’s work into other-worldly directions.
Always on the cutting edge of electronic music, Arca’s talents have been in demand for years with production credits on four Yeezus tracks as well as being co-writer of (arguably) FKA twigs' best work in EP2. In more recent years the Venezuelan born producer has worked with Frank Ocean (‘Mine’) and Kelela (‘A Message’ and ‘Hallucinogen’), but has worked most closely with Björk on her Vulincura album.
In an interview with i-D, Ghersi revealed that Björk was the one to convince him to utilise his voice for the first time when the two were singing in a car; in what could potentially be the most eclectic Carpool Karaoke in history. It’s this new use of Ghersi’s deep vocals across most of Arca which is predictably the most stark new feature in the evolution of Arca. Singing improvised in Spanish, the vocals are often exposed and at times shaky. On lead singles ‘Piel’ and ‘Anoche’ the delicacy and emotion in Ghersi’s voice lends a religious and devotional tone to the tracks as if he were recounting some ancient chant.
Arca follows up Xen and Mutant, which Ghersi described to Rolling Stone as being introverted and extroverted expressions of his own personality. Mutant clocked in at over an hour and was a dense listen, unlike Arca, which has more in common with Xen as the compositions are given room to breathe. Whereas Xen’s open space was occupied by distinctly electronic tones, Ghersi’s voice occupies the spaces between the notes on Arca. This is used most effectively in the sparse album centrepiece and highlight ‘Coraje’, which is a world away from the brutal, abrasive Arca of old.
Arca’s visual collaborator Jesse Kanda cannot go without mention here, as the avant-garde videos add another dimension to Ghersi’s music, and go some way to clarifying and giving direction to what can be seen as a dense and challenging listen.
It goes without saying that Arca as an artist that operates at the fringes of electronic music, and this release, like his others, will not be for everyone. It’s a challenging but rewarding listen which uncovers itself most rewardingly when given full attention on a dark and melancholic night.