tue 05/07/2022

Album: Arca - KICK ii / KICK iii / KICK iiii | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Arca - KICK ii / KICK iii / KICK iiii

Album: Arca - KICK ii / KICK iii / KICK iiii

Gothic darkness, ultrapop, high art, street music and haughty aloofness collide

Alejandra Ghersi – Arca – is one of the most influential musicians on the planet in the last decade. Even aside from working with huge names like Björk and Kanye West, her ultra-detailed, high drama, electronic abstractions have set the pace for a legion of artists from very underground to ultra-pop.

And the combination of mind-bending textural shifting in her sound, outré performance and collaborations with visual artists like the master mutants Jesse Kanda has created an archetype (Arca-type?) for a generation of queer and gender non-conforming artists who find analogies for transformation and complex relationships to sense of self in the constantly shifting, monstrous and beautiful, sound and vision. 

Now, with typical ambition, she has decided to almost double her discography in one fell swoop. Following last year’s KICK i come ii, iii and iiii each released on successive days, all of them packed to the gills with noise, weirdness and no small degree of charm. ii and iii are heavy on the populist modern rhythms of Latin America like reggaetón and cumbia, while iiii is altogether more abstract and often beat free. 

Pop, street, high art, gothic darkness and aggro noise all blur one into the other, and the range of guest musicians is no less bamboozling. They range from the super-artsy (cellist/producer Oliver Coates on the gorgeous near-ambient “Esuna”, Brit-in-Estonia Planningtorock on the brain-fizzing AutoTune dark pop workout “Queer”) to megastars (gazillion-selling hitmaker Sia on “Born Yesterday”, Garbage’s Shirley Manson regally intoning spoken word on the apocalyptic “Alien Inside”). 

It can be pretty disquieting, and not just because of the relentlessly shrill and penetrating high frequencies deployed throughout. An artist who was born into wealth (Ghersi’s father is a Venezuelan investment banker who moved to the US) and moves in high art, high fashion circles, adopting sounds like reggaetón isn’t wrong in itself. The placing of such proletarian forms on a gallery-like pedestal by embellishing them with infinite and expensive sounding sonic detail, however, can certainly feel a bit off. And the presence of Sia, so soon after her ghastly, ableist film Music which caused deep upset to autistic people and their allies across the world certainly throws into question whether Arca's examinations of identity come with much empathy.

Which is not to write this music off, by any means. Discomfort and wrongness is all part of the Arca aesthetic, and there’s a lot here that’s truly beautiful, and potentially inspiring to many. But like that other recent sprawling project by a hereditarily rich artist who spans pop and underground – last year’s seven-disc, two-and-three-quarter-hour 7G by AC Cook – it’s hard to escape a sense of something that is somewhat haughtily demanding that you do the hard work of unpicking its workings, rather than focusing its own message. But fine, there is beauty, and thought-provoking innovation here. Just don’t expect it to be handed to you on a plate.

@joemuggs

Hear "Prada/Rakata":

It can be pretty disquieting, and not just because of the relentlessly shrill and penetrating high frequencies deployed throughout

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

This review is very subjective and doesn't focus on the music, but Arca's economical background and the morality of her collaborators. Maybe if you focused on the music itself, this review could have been better.

That's a very subjective opinion of what a review should be.

Following on from what Juan Martinez said, I think it's rather unfortunate and not particularly compelling to discuss Arca's upbringing and background in such detail in an album review. Like, are you trying to argue that Arca's work is hard to understand because she's rich? Is she an elitist? I really don't see what the discussion achieves in the context of the review, and I've left knowing more about Arca's personal life than the albums that this review is purported to centre on.

Gosh, this looks fun! We'll be dancing to this at our Christmas parties, possibly with our willies out.

Lol, how to make a review about a thing you know nothing about. Too many words to say nothing. "She comes from a rich family bla bla bla pseudo moralistic views bla bla bla the music is bla." Please, just put your headphones on and be more modest.

Absolute garbage review. How are you going to review 47 tracks in 3 paragraphs when you've barely even touched on the music?

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters