Arca – Arca (XL Recordings / Remote Control)


Like the visceral, often alien-esque sonic elements that writhe and flicker through his densely textured productions, Venezualan electronic producer Alejandro Ghersi’s creative muse seems to be constantly, almost restlessly shifting in new directions with each new release he drops. While his preceding 2015 as Arca ‘Mutant’ saw his productions becoming more abstracted and abrasive, their distorted forms mirroring the mutation-centric cover art, this third self-titled album sees Ghersi moving in a new direction entirely, resulting in what’s easily his most intimate and personal collection to date. Indeed, the thirteen tracks collected here see Ghersi placing his own singing voice at the forefront of his tracks for the first time, something that was apparently the result of encouragement by collaborator Bjork after she heard him singing impromptu in the car.

After hearing his stunning vocal abilities here, his alternately angelic and operatic Spanish vocals soaring and dancing against often cinematic and orchestral-tinged electronic backings, it seems astounding to think that he needed a push to showcase what’s perhaps his biggest weapon here. ‘Piel’ opens this album with Ghersi’s sweetly hummed wordless vocals, before they shift into his native Spanish against droning harmonics, his ghostly melancholic tones draping themselves over swelling orchestral elements and ominous bass pads, the entire track feeling like some ambient threnody more than anything else as it builds to a magnificent conclusion. ‘Urchin’ sees detuned synth sweeps reaching out into the distance against vast crunching rhythms and bursts of industrial noise, before sub-aquatic sounding piano notes suddenly appear out of the murk, building into spiralling arrangements as Ghersi’s wordless phased harmonies soar high above the contorted machinery.

Elsewhere, ‘Sin Rumbo’ reprises its appearance on his preceding ‘Entranas’ mixtape, offering up what’s easily one of the most operatic vocal performances from Ghersi here as his lower register glides ghostlike against glacial phased notes and sudden lurching rhythmic tics, soaring up into dizzying heights as what sound like drastically treated guitar plucks float up from the depths. ‘Whip’ offers up what’s perhaps a brief moment of dark humour here as the sampled sound of a whip being cracked gets cut-up and edited all over the stereo spectrum as plunging bass drops and steely percussive tones wind the menace up a few notches, before ‘Desafio’ offers up a sidestep into brighter pop territory, the brooding bass drops and brightly stuttering synth melodies calling to mind the likes of Depeche Mode more than anything else as Ghersi’s multi-layered harmonies reach towards the stratosphere. As far as a third act, this latest self-titled album from Arca is simply jaw-dropping. I can’t wait to see what he does next – it could be anything, based on this latest stunning effort.


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