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Electro - Released April 7, 2017 | XL Recordings

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Self-titled albums often mean an artist is making a definitive statement, and Arca is a prime example: Alejandro Ghersi's third album as Arca is by far his most revealing, putting his voice, and the beauty of his music, at the forefront in a new and often stunning way. Considering how often electronic producers rely on others to provide vocals for their music, it's remarkable that Ghersi not only sings, but sings so well. On "Anoche," his voice is equally powerful and delicate, sweeping across its full range on what sounds like a traditional Venezuelan folk song given a radical electronic arrangement; the juxtaposition of his soaring vocals with crunching beats rivals Ghersi's collaborator Björk at her most affecting. On the stripped-down "Sin Rumbo," which first appeared on the mixtape Entranas, he swings from an impressive falsetto to richer tones that recall Anohni. Elsewhere, Ghersi reaches back to his synth pop project Nuuro, filtering it through Arca's experimental lens on highlights such as "Desafio" and "Reverie," both of which sound like excerpts from a futuristic opera. To make room for his voice, Ghersi trades some of his music's mechanical precision and noise for a more open approach. Where many of his previous releases were claustrophobically packed with ideas, Arca explores the drama of wide-open spaces, letting elements of his music flow and crash into each other on tracks like "Castration," where metallic synths duke it out with a haunting piano melody. Later, he returns to the physical quality of his earlier work: "Saunter"'s strut lives up to its name, but there's a welling sadness in its wobbling synths, as if the track could stumble at any moment. And lest anyone think Ghersi has gotten too soft, "Whip" pairs a wildly ricocheting rhythm with lumbering drones. More often than not, though, Arca's songs are joined -- if not exactly grounded -- by their emotional impact. The melodic melancholy that bubbled under on Xen swells to the surface on the gently beckoning "Fugaces" and "Coraje," which blankets Ghersi's vocals in luminous electronics. The ominous undercurrent of Arca's work is never far away, though. Few things are as terrifying as revealing one's self completely, and Ghersi telegraphs this with "Piel"'s fearsome synths and the dark, lumbering finale, "Child," which plays like the summation -- and roots -- of the album's turbulent emotions. As always, Ghersi pushes his boundaries on Arca, and the vulnerability he displays makes it some of his most exciting and moving music yet. ~ Heather Phares

Electro - Released April 7, 2017 | XL Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music

Electro - Released November 3, 2014 | Mute

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Arca (aka Alejandro Ghersi) proves his mastery of flux once again on Xen, an album where every aspect of his music is in glorious limbo. Unfettered by vocalists -- Kanye West and FKA Twigs are some of his highest-profile collaborators -- the producer takes his tracks in wild but uniquely balanced directions. Borrowing equally from classical and hip-hop inspirations, his impressionistic sounds flow, stutter, bounce off of, and crash into each other in ways that unite and elevate each element, whether on "Now You Know"'s stark recombinations of strings, flute, and percussion or the dense, rumbling "Promise." Xen's intricate miniatures recall Arca's mixtape &&&&&, but where that work unfolded like a 25-minute sound painting (and was even performed as an audiovisual piece at New York's Museum of Modern Art with collaborator Jesse Kanda), these tracks are more discrete. "Xen" itself is a satisfying microcosm of the entire album, packed full of sounds in a way that's challenging but never jumbled. Occasionally, Ghersi allows a beat to proceed more or less undisturbed: "Sisters," which pairs metallic tones with a drumbeat mutated from Prince's "When the Doves Cry," approaches alien pop; "Thievery"'s massive rhythm section nods to Arca's more club-friendly work but retains the uncanny feel of the album's more abstract moments. More often, though, he reconfigures sounds on an almost molecular level. He minces hip-hop into an ebbing, flowing mosaic on "Lonely Thugg," where buried vocal snippets underscore Xen's unsettlingly organic feel. "Failed," one of a few melancholy and melodic interludes, recalls the way Oneohtrix Point Never chopped and pasted the melodramatic sounds of '80s New Age into new forms on R Plus Seven. However, Ghersi tempers cerebral soundplay with pure emotion, a move that gives Xen its own rich character and depth. The piano on the meditative "Held Apart" flows like tears in the rain, while "Sad Bitch" and "Wound" let their electronics sing just as beautifully as a human voice as they flicker between rapturous and mournful. The way Arca plays with and decorates time, letting sounds and moods mutate spontaneously, makes Xen a complete picture of his artistry and also promises much more. ~ Heather Phares

Electro - Released November 20, 2015 | Mute

Arca's Alejandro Ghersi remained as prolific as he was before projects like his highly acclaimed debut album Xen and his production work on Björk's Vulnicura raised his profile. Just a few months after Xen's release, Ghersi issued Sheep, a mixtape of music he composed for a Hood by Air fashion show. As an artist with a distinctive look and sound, Arca's connection to the fashion world made sense, but Sheep wasn't standard runway fare: with tracks that sampled the bleating of sheep and choral music (as well as the work of Björk, Robert Wyatt, and Lana Del Ray), it teetered between stylish and subversive, disturbing and poignant. Ghersi expands on this complicated headspace on Mutant, a set of tracks that feels like a hard-won celebration of individuality. A few of Sheep's pivotal moments reappear here, providing some of the album's touchstones. "Else" manages to be both delicate and heavy, while "Hymn"'s intensity reaches fittingly awe-inspiring levels. Ghersi uses chanted vocals to humanize the mechanical chaos of "Umbilical," and renders them unearthly on the eerie, frantic "En." Of course, Mutant is much more than a rehash of Sheep. Ghersi also goes deeper into Xen's elastic yet abrasive sound world, heightening and fragmenting it into extremes: stripped down to little more than echoing chords, "Gratitude" initially plays like a respite from the album's density, but there's as much tension in its spaces as there is on busier tracks like "Enveloped," a melee of ping-ponging beats and lush tones that is one of the few nods to the more structured approach of Ghersi's debut. Instead, Mutant emphasizes the physicality of Arca's music. It often feels like he is applying extreme pressure to these songs and suddenly releasing it, letting the gut-punching percussion and brittle synth tones bend and break at will. The results are often stunning, as on the strafing, sparkling opener "Alive" or the lengthy title track, which is built on a shuddering beat that sounds like it was recorded on fault lines. Mutant's fragmentation suggests the breaking of emotional boundaries as well as musical ones. From the kinetic melancholy of "Snakes" to the more personal territory of "Soichiro" (which uses the middle name of longtime collaborator Jesse Kanda as its title) and "Faggot," which unites the album's hardness and softness in a bold reclamation of that slur, this is some of Ghersi's most charged-sounding music. Mutant may be some of his most challenging work yet, but as Arca's music becomes more abstract, the viewpoint behind it comes into focus in ways that embrace strangeness, ugliness, and beauty equally. ~ Heather Phares

Electro - Released March 9, 2015 | Mute

Electro - Released December 2, 2014 | ARCA

Electro - Released December 2, 2014 | ARCA

Electro - Released September 16, 2014 | Mute

Electro - Released August 17, 2005 | Dsa

Most of the weaknesses in Arca's debut album were fixed on the follow-up, titled Angles, but more importantly it feels like a group effort. Sylvain Chauveau (guitar, keyboards) and Joan Cambon (bass, guitar, programming) are joined this time by drummer Julien Brandwyk and cellist Géraldine Devillières. Matthias Meier (clarinets) and Widy Marché (guitars) also make appearances. The songs are much more heart-taking, developing lush atmospheres dipped in melancholia without sounding frail. Chauveau is a mainstay of the post-rock movement (to talk of a movement), and with Angles he shows that Arca could become the biggest band in the field since Tortoise and Godspeed You Black Emperor!. One possible obstacle is the music's reliance on French spoken voices to develop a subtext to these otherwise instrumental pieces. Themes of deception, erotic dysfunction, and media manipulation are dear to Chauveau and empower the music with a subversiveness that is more convincing than what GYBE! has done, yet if you don't understand French, it will all sound like clichéd textural backdrops. The best musical moments happen when a slow, deceptively simple (two, three notes) and repetitive melody on guitar or organ tops a double-time motif -- in "Face" and "Perspective of Nude," both featuring mallet percussion (or similar-sounding keyboard patches), the music gets very close to Pierre Moerlen-era Gong without the blandness common in this brand of jazz-rock. Without a single weak track and with plenty of replay appeal, Angles is a must-have and one of the best instrumental rock albums of 2003. ~ François Couture