Rating: 6.5 // 10
Genres: Art-Pop, Glitch-Pop/Hop, EDM, Deconstructed Club
Released: 26/06/20, XL
Arca kicks boxes into touch with this bizarre manipulation of sounds and genres, subverting the subversion of expectations in new ways.
Apparently the first in a trilogy – or a four-parter – this album jumps between genres like no one’s business. And that’s effectively what this project is – no one’s business part from Arca herself.
Fluidity is a key concept behind Arca – as part of her self-identity, but also her music and language. Venezuelan and living in Barcelona yet working in an English-speaking world, we switch between languages like you would do in a bilingual home.
The harsh, electronic sounds of glitch hop and pop meet the stripped back sounds of deconstructed club, whilst things are made even weirder with psychedelic and EDM elements chucked into the mix.
Compared to her more abrasive, computerised sound driven projects, this is Arca’s poppiest album yet – if pop is still a concept in her view of the world.
The opening four tracks flash past at breakneck speed, setting the pace and habits for the rest of the record. The opener Nonbinary boasts a slow rapped verse that is sped up for impact when it calls for it.
It has an unnerving energy to it, thanks to the weird percussion and Arca’s closeness to the microphone. It’s influenced further by layered vocals. The beat picks up when it wants to, with mechanical, industrial clashing of metal in the background.
The song eventually melts its conclusion, with a harrowing giggle to match the slightly off, high pitched notes in the background.
EDM vibes are at their strongest with Time, which is a largely forgettable track that also boasts aspects of Deconstructed Club.
Mequetrefe is our first proper dosage of Spanish on the track, with more glitchy production and vocals on top of another rapidly changing beat. It has this feel of energy that can’t be contained or controlled, coming out in spurts at random times.
The opening track certainly has the most cohesive feeling to it – barely, as hardly anything on this feels connected. But that comes across as by design on Riquiquí , which switches between the two languages.
It shares the gunfire effects from the opener and the frequently changing beat of Mequetrefe, placing it towards glitch-pop and industrial pop.
We get slightly more ethereal with Calor, which also features in the background similar industrial sounds, but placed onto the back burner. The synths that carry us out are again semi-eerie.
Björk, who employed Arca as a producer on some of her previous work, lends Spanish, or at least and Icelandic interpretation of the language, to the track Afterwards. It is more spacious, and again to borrow the term, ethereal in scope. It ends in a warbling, washed out sound.
The collaborations continue on Watch, as Shygirl joins for a song firmly in the genre of Deconstructed Club. The buzzing synths and sound effects create a computerised cacophony of sound, that eventually whirs together into a more cohesive sounding track.
There’s a lot going on here, and whilst I enjoy the instrumentals, they swallow up Shygirl completely to the point where she is simply background noise.
However, that balance isn’t an issue on the track list’s highlight, KLK, where fellow Barcelona resident ROSALÍA joins in to lay down some lovely vocals. It’s a lot more conventional than other tracks on here, replicating more club bangers in its structure. That’s not to say it isn’t experimental – it again uses gunfire and mechanical sounds, of which are slowly becoming predictable and annoying.
Rip the Slit has some interesting lyrical imagery, to say the last. I do enjoy the manipulated vocals that bring us into the track, drawing from hyperpop. It’s very repetitive chorus is clearly designed to be the backbone of the song, and it does create a strong track.
Artpop princess SOPHIE joins on La Chíqui, which doesn’t really blow me away in truth. There are elements towards the tailend of the track to make it interesting, but it does seem a bit derivative at times.
Machote comes to life with some strings, a new element amongst the chaos. It has this shimmering effect at the beginning as well, which I am not a huge fan of. In fact, the last two tracks don’t really offer anything new to me and aren’t worth much discussion.
I really wanted to like this project more than I did, but overall it didn’t quite live up to the hype in my head. That being said it wasn’t a total waste of my time, and I eagerly anticipate further instalments if they are an improvement upon this solid base.
- Nonbinary (B+)
- Time (C)
- Mequetrefe (B)
- Riquiquí (B)
- Calor (B)
- Afterwards (B)
- Watch (C)
- KLK (B+)
- Rip the Slit (B)
- La Chíqui (B)
- Machote (C)
- No Queda Nada (C+)