Alejandro Ghersi, the North East London-based, Venezuelan-born electronic wunderkind known as Arca, has delivered the cohesive, intoxicating statement his prodigious talents have always hinted at with this ethereal third long-player. In introducing his own vocals for the first time, the genre-skipping, gender-bending auteur leads us down a mesmerising rabbit-hole that reaffirms his command of quivering electronic soul.
On his new, self-titled and self-contained album for XL, Alejandro Ghersi, who’s previously enhanced and illuminated shape-shifting music by Frank Ocean, Kanye, FKA Twigs and Bjork, has made a conscious decision to temper the trademark scattershot clutter of his glitchy, skittish productions and inject a weepy, contemplative vocabulary that’s been sporadically present on earlier albums ‘Mutant’ and ‘Xen’. In removing much of the stuttering anxiety and chilly gargles of his more fractured, outre pieces and unleashing naked emotion, Arca has fashioned an electronic- pastoral that attains a stately glow, an emotional lift, from its canny juxtaposition of sorrow and sunlight, beauty and the grotesque.
Any discussion of this album cannot fail to highlight the impact of the use of his voice, an operatic, mournful instrument that bestrides nine of the thirteen selections. Singing in his native Spanish, Ghersi’s choral-like soprano bathes in glassy, glacial and twitchy tones that imagine a meeting point between Anohni and The Aphex Twin; the expansion of palette, open-hearted confessionals and textural interplay cajole the listener rather than keep them at arms’ length.
The opening track, ‘Piel’, plonks his fragile voice at the forefront, against a muted pillow of twinkling synthesisers; the effect is both unnerving and magically poignant at the same time, simultaneously ecclesiastical and futuristic. ‘Anoche’ is equally thrilling, an ambient ballad decorated by subtle piano figures and flickers of frayed electronic percussion. On these and cavernous, enchanting songs like ‘Reverie’ and ‘Desafio’, Arca departs from the obtuse, cerebral fare of past albums and invokes the giddy, otherworldly digitalia of Bjork, who is credited as encouraging him to use his own singing voice.
Arca already creates slippery, forward-thinking IDM like no one else, arranging beats, synths and layers of industrial-flecked noise with a painstaking attention to detail that represents an organic synthesis of approachability and intelligence, light and shade. With his new opus, he’s re-attuned our conceptions of what an Arca album could be, finding a way of processing radiant melody, unguarded emotion and airy, show-stealing vocals without sacrificing content and in doing so taking his art to higher elevations. ‘Arca’ is an enthralling marriage of the cyborg swirl of his arrangements and the disarming intimacy of his singing, the latter of which suggests he’s on the verge of tears or tentative bliss as he confides into your eyes, luring his way into your consciousness like the re-telling of a dream.