Monday, 8 August 2016

Arca - Entrañas (Mixtape Review)

"Its ok to be a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading, but secretly you'd love to know what it's like. Wouldn't you?"          

Gender and sexual identity has always been a crucial idea within the music of Arca. This sampled monologue from Charlotte Gainsbourg is the most explicitly it has been addressed. Amidst a relentlessly hostile environment, full of sudden ruptures and turbulence, this address is made clear and militantly upfront. Alejandro Ghersi's music under the moniker of Arca rarely allows for such an unambiguous message, it is widely known for wrestling with the complexity and fluidity of identity, offering few - if any - simplistic answers.

Arca, Lotic and Elysia Crampton are all part of a burgeoning scene, one which operates through a shared desire to make what is wrongly perceived as objective far more blurred. This stretches beyond the realms of topics explored in interviews, but to the very structure of the music itself. Nothing is fixed or solid within the releases by these artists. Any refernece is there to be mangled and contorted.

Entrañas is the most punishing and industrial of his discography, a weird contradicting mix of murky and epic, sounding like its writhing around in the mud with sudden flashes of... I don't think elegance is the right word, but something along those lines. A Cocteau Twins sample is unexpectedly used, Liz Frazer's voice - not the slightest bit ruined by the sea of boorish indie boys obsessively fawning over it - is imbeded amongst Arca's set of typical - or atypical - sounds. One trait being the strange warped note which has been compared to a digital harpsichord. In fact its fitting that the release features a collaboration with Mica Levi, as the sound of both artists are like a bent out of shape alien string section.

This exploration of sounds which are undeniably, well... let's just say on the grating end of the spectrum, could be mispercieved as shallow shock tactics. It's true that the mixtape has the capacity to make even the most avid Throbbing Gristle fan feel uneasy, but it does so in a genuinely cathartic manner (I know describing punishing music as cathartic is an overused idea, but it's one which is definitely applicable to this project)

If Helm's Olympic Mess is like an industrial music of the post-club climate, then Arca's may be percieved by some as the industrial of the post-human. I think claims which have been made relating to Arca's percieved inhuman sound are a tad fatalistic and reactionary, after all I've always thought Arca makes a mockery of the idea that technology makes us more distant. He uses the digital world to create a far more complicated and multi facated depiction of identity and emotion.

The mixtape culminates with the only identifiable song 'Sin Rumbo'. The lethargic, ponderous pace is interrupted with jerks of both natural and synthetic sounds, ending with the sample of fireworks, which remarkably comes across as melancholic rather than joyous. The track features what I believe are Arca's own vocals, resulting in probably the closest we'll ever see to a ballad. After finishing the release i'm reminded of Arca's continuous ability to bypass boundaries, bravely removing expected limitations on both sounds and ideas.

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