The third release of Venezuelan producer Alejandro Ghersi aka Arca is an eponymous LP that explores sexuality and deviance through a cathartic effort. Funnily enough, he achieved his most “Arca” work to date by tapping into the remains of his Alejandro identity. The album does, in fact, repair the severed bond between a younger self and the majestic contemporary creature that is Arca. When a teenage boy in the street of Caracas, he was producing and singing music under the name Nuuro, a project that he abandoned years later as he couldn’t reconcile the pop phenomenon that he had become with his truer self. And so his voice was shut. It took many years and the provocative suggestion of Icelandic queen Björk – whom he collaborated with, alongside Kanye West, Frank Ocean and FKA Twigs – for him to start nurturing the idea to sing again. Not only that: on the album, he sings in his native language, Spanish.
The result is a beautifully complex and chaotic ensemble of 13 tracks, that incorporates the distinctive distortion of the traditional Arca sound with plangent cries and religious-like hymns. The journey begins with Piel, a masterpiece of frailty, and progresses showing more and more of the artist’s skin. Signs of Arca’s new-found intimacy appear in Saunter – a track where fragmentation blends with melody – and Coraje – which seems the reinterpretation of a romantic ballad –, while pure instrumental spurs appear throughout the unfolding of the album in Urchin, Castration, the BDSM evoking Whip and the closing track Child.
With “Arca”, it looks like the Venezuelan visionnaire is starting to shun from the abstractism of “Xen” (2014) and “Mutant” (2015) to claim back more carnal depictions of love and brutality. This comes to surface in the use of his body and the introduction of a lamenting, over-bearing, fragmented, imperfect voice – his. Particularly, the video for Reverie – curated by friend and long-time visual collaborator Jesse Kanda – seems to dismantle traditional archetypes of prey and predator in an animalistic metaphor that rings truer to human manifestation than most washed-out imaginary of modern urban sexuality. In the video, the artist reveals himself as both the perpetrator of violence (via the sudden appearance – on his groin – of a disproportioned penis) and its receiver (via the very graphic depiction of his bleeding anus).
Overall, in this album, there is a distinct sense that Arca is looking back with both critical and forgiving eyes to who he once was and who he’ll soon become. The complete honesty of Arca’s personal dissonances ultimately leads listeners to a profound state of liberation and self-reflection. And we are ready to follow him wherever he might take us.