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At first glance of this record, you see the overly saturated, cartoonish but ultimately personal cover of Arca’s 3rd album. An eponymous release, and in reflection to the cover art, this album is his most personal yet delightfully harrowing album to date.
Arca (or Alejandro Ghersi) is known for the glitchy, dense and overwhelming sounds he so easily flaunts throughout his work. He is also well known as a producer and has worked with many famous artists including FKA twigs, Kanye West, but most notably, Björk. Arca has stated it was Björk who gave him the confidence to use his own vocals on an album, and these vocals are anything but forgettable. Sung in Spanish (his first language), they’re often chilling and operatic but always a complement to the dense instrumentals found across the album.
The first song on the album, ‘Peil’, opens with Arca’s exposed vulnerable voice and a harsh drone, somewhat uneasy yet not at all out of place. The song continues to build as strings are introduced, drenched in reverb and otherworldly tones. The next song ‘Anoche’ continues this, but with more energy. Undulating, detuned strings with operatic, harrowing vocals over the top provide all the emotional resonance that was intended.
Throughout the album, it’s easy to notice that Arca’s sounds here are much more focused than on his previous works, especially his work on ‘Mutant’ or ‘Zen’. But for fans of his previous work, there are plenty of cuts here that will satisfy. For example, probably the catchiest song on the album, ‘Reverie’ will keenly please long time Arca fans with its glitchy and industrial instrumental, while newcomers will be happy to hear what is one of Arca’s strongest vocal performances on the album.
There are some great tracks on here with no vocals too, such as ‘Castration’ and ‘Whip’. ‘Castration’ is a highly synthetic track with scattering hi-hats littered throughout the piece, yet the result is a bombastic barrage of Arca’s production talents. These talents are shown again in the track ‘Whip’, which serves as a pseudo-interlude (although I’m not sure if this was the intention), in which even the strangest sounds are made to feel in the right place.
I have few criticisms of this album, mainly with the song ‘Desafio’. Whilst ‘Desafio’ is an amazing track filled with unforgettable hooks, Arca’s first verse in this song stands out on the album and not in a good way, it does not complement the rest of the song at all. With his vocal melodies coming off here as poppy and ill-fitted.
Overall, this album is a delightful and highly personal change for Arca. Arca’s production talents are to be massively revered, as he managed to bring together elements of glitch, electronic, classical and even elements of pop music together on an album which is a highly rewarding listen. The most striking thing, as ever with Arca’s work, is that he is able to produce sounds which I can promise you will not hear anywhere else.