by Zé Garcia
How does one find the words to articulate an album that is more akin to a film score from one of the most mesmerizing and visionary pop artists of our time? Everyone around the world is talking about Arca but lets get one thing straight, around here we first met Arca (aka Alejandro Ghersi) as Nuuro. Did we expect the laptop pop guy who made Reddest Ruby to go on to make the avant-garde Yeezus, the seductive nightmarish r&b of FKA twigs, and now, forthcoming, Bjork? Who will Arca work with next? Missy Elliott?
Arca rarely finishes the uncomfortable states of mind he creates, instead layering electromagnetic waves of bursting sounds into dreadful but always spectacular psychosis. First track is the continuum that Arca operates best in: creaks of light throbbing into consciousness -in the distance alien & avian sound calls- the language of “Xen”? "Now You Know" gives way to the somber piano madness of “Held Apart"- the sort of painful, heavenly pastiche that precedes the album's title track. “Xen" chatters, “ Xen” vogues: deep hollow breathing, grunts - Xen is flexing sensuously, now creepy. The track pulsates into becoming a stripper anthem in the same universe where Laura Palmer does dance routines to “Neverland" by The Knife. The mesmerizing nighttime antics of the title track are found only in two other tracks- “Thievery" and "Bullet Chained”. “Sisters” does sound like reggaeton (good one Pitchfork, but I was already going to DJ this one in between Don Omar and Ivy Queen long before your review came out) and “Lonely Thug” might be the only thing that sounds like Baron Libre on here, besides maybe “Tongue."
“Failed" sounds just as its title suggests- dejected, melancholy, “Fish” like your brain is an egg yolk being deep fried by the Sun which then gives way to the longing and mournful "Wound". Reminescent of Ghersi’s vocals on "Avila” but transhuman, Ghersi sounds like the discontent of a pack of space wolves roaming, howling, searching for solace in space tundra. It is in “Wound” where we breach the security levels of Xen. She is vulnerable. She goes on stealth mode and ejaculates into the sadomasochistic industrial techno of "Bullet Chained" (sounding a lot like "On Sight" here, but you know, better) as if Xen the androgynous android were on a runway dodging drone strikes- synthy dance cataclysm with an elegant finish. “Tongue" licks with low frequencies and frenetic wobble bass-the affair sounds like locusts slicing at the airspace of Xen. Xen can go no further. Xen must self destruct - her swan song, the closing number "Promise" sounds like an epic implosion of the sonic biosphere Arca created for her.