Album Review: KiCk i// Arca

Over the past decade, Alejandra Ghersi, better known as Arca has been a driving force behind some of the most genre-bending albums of the modern music scene, collaborating with the likes of Björk, FKA Twigs, and even Kanye West. A unique voice within the electronic music world, Arca can always be relied on to infuse a disjointed, percussive, yet gentle ferocity to tracks, equally hostile and alluring. KiCk i arrives in the wake of Arca’s much-documented ‘coming out’ as non-binary and a trans woman. For this album, Arca blossoms into an identity of grandeur, bringing forward a bolder, snappier and more ‘fun’ sound. The album title encapsulates this notion of rebirth (a “baby’s kick”), as well as the larger struggle against life itself (much like “kicking a habit” or “kicking” yourself), manifest in the horror complex of human identity, and our consummate desire for some fraction of wholeness or self-actualisation.

The first three songs of the album introduce the three major sonic threads that run throughout the work. Album opener ‘Nonbinary’ is a tongue-in-cheek polemic delivered with the precision of a grime chart-topper, yet in a tone best described as “casual nonchalance.” Staccato percussion is scattered throughout the short track, building up into the hook/outro, with the song ending just as it seems to begin. This track is evocative of SOPHIE’s work on ‘Faceshopping,’ with SOPHIE also making a characteristically bold feature on ‘La Chiqui.’ Most of the pieces in this album follow this structural pattern, often leaving more to be desired and sticking to a minimal range of motivic material.

The album’s second track, ‘Time’, is a more characteristically melancholic Arca song, save for its arpeggio synth patterns, which juxtapose highly reverberated vocals, evoking the sounds of an ethereal nightlife scene. The music video for the electro-pop ballad sees a dolled up, bionic Arca frolicking on late night adventures with the pimped-up devil. This pensive mood is returned to in the album’s second half. The third track, ‘Mequetrefe,’ aptly described as “experimental reggaeton” by a Youtube commenter introduces the musical context of Arca’s Venezuelan identity. Spanish lyrics and rhythms evoke a party atmosphere found deep in the heart of places like Barcelona and Caracas.

Throughout the album there is seamless transition between English and Spanish that carries on this theme of intersecting identities. Björk’s characteristic shimmering vocals appear on ‘Afterwards,’ with the Icelandic pop icon trying her hand at Spanish. Where the previous major collaborations between the two artists on Utopia and Vulnicura produced challenging, yet gut-wrenching overtures, the two settle on a more gentle and touching lullaby. The lyrics of the song come from Antonio Machado’s ‘Anoche Cuando Dormía’ a lyrical poem recanting beautiful pastoral dreams. Album closer ‘No quid nada’ is similarly touching; a love song in Spanish; a straightforward balladic end to a frenetic album.

In KiCk i , the music is there to be listened to as much as to vibe to, scream along to, dance to and physically absorb. The live setting intent behind much of the music is evident in the stream of consciousness style of structures and thematic progressions. Arca imposes her reality into the airwaves of the listener.

Where the album falls short is that the vocals often veer on the edge of being overly processed and buried within the chaotic mix, and the lack of a developed structure within and between tracks only loosely makes it a cohesive work. Regardless, it is a welcome addition to the growing solo repertoire of the hardest working producer in the game.

Words by Samm Anga

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