2020 – Experimental / Electronic
On her fourth studio album, Arca plunges into a sea of disturbed and twisted electronic sounds, however, this is the most accessible music she has ever released.
Arca has a unique, brilliant and extremely rare talent. Throughout the last decade, no one has grown up like her. While she worked as a producer and songwriter on Kanye West’s incredible Yeezus, on the incomparable MAGDALENE by FKA twigs and even on the unique projects of Björk, Vulnicura and Utopia, she developed not only her sound, but also her personality. In the early 2010s, she released two EPs, Stretch 1 and Stretch 2, in which Arca distorted, twisted, froze, melted, pulled and stretched the synthesizers in a way that no one else did. Since then, she has been developing her sound, reaching higher levels of production, as in 2014’s Xen, and more acute levels of depth and sadness, as in 2015’s Mutant. However, none of her other projects were more important and ambitious like her self-titled album from 2017, in which she discovered — or rediscovered — her voice. Arca was not only responsible for showing the singer that her voice was a unique, grand and memorable piece, but it also showed that she could work with any sound she wanted. Now, in 2020, she releases her fourth studio album and the first part of a series of four albums, KiCk i, which is not only her most ambitious album, but also, her most accessible album to date.
However, KiCk i is not only responsible for bringing a new sound to Arca, but also, a new personality in which she feels even more herself. It is the first album that she brings collaborations. It is the first album where she mixes her powerful voice and sound aesthetics from her self-titled album with a visionary vision of electronic music. It is her first album after she accepted herself and came out as a transsexual woman. But most importantly, it’s the first album where she feels completely herself. She is happy, she shines and spins inside a futuristic room while her closest friends play disturbed and orderly electronic instruments. She turns into a kind of distorted code or a kind of alien breastfeeding robot. And KiCk i is like this: brilliant but never tires; innovative for itself; in addition to being her most accessible album with tracks that could easily be seen at the top of the charts if the music industry did not have their reservations. KiCk i is brilliant but it is also an essential piece in Arca’s discography and life.
Right on the first track of the album we can already have tips on how the album will go: synthesizers will explode and, while particles of pianos and strings jumped from side to side, Arca’s vocals passed through a computer that will define her as a robot, alien or human. This whole mix develops in an excellent way while Arca writes lyrics that, although not the best and most complex that she has ever released, manage to faithfully convey her troubled feelings. The album’s opener, “Nonbinary”, which was also the lead single, appears with its feet firmly on the ground. In the first few seconds, while a keyboard imitates pipes hitting drums, Arca speaks seriously: “I do what I wanna do when I wanna do it”. On this track, she accepts herself, starts to love herself and leaves the sadness of the past to adopt a feeling of violent self-esteem: “Who do you think I am? / It’s not who do you think you’re dealing with, no / ‘Cause you’ re not “dealing with” / There’s no deal”. Meanwhile, the pounding of pipes and iron drums sounds in the background. It is one of those songs that are simple but still are unique and deep in their own way.
And just like the first track that, in addition to having feelings of self-acceptance, has numerous similarities to the sound she showed in her single “@@@@@” which was released earlier this year. In the 62-minute track, Arca took electronic music to a totally unexplainable level: for almost an hour, synthesizers scream as loudly as they can while Arca hits them as hard as she can, thus creating a troubled and extremely confusing but inspiring track. Following these same trends, several songs here appear as a kind of children of that great experiment. “Rip the Slit” which, despite having its lyrics composed by repetitions that over time become tiring, has an excellent production composed by a giant variety of voices and synthesizers that play in a broken way, imitating TV noises and usual electronic beats. In “Watch”, Arca sets her stage so that Shygirl sounds like a provocative robot in front of several electronic elements that certainly have been used in other projects, but that gain a totally original look here. Both tracks, as well as “@@@@@”, are grandiose and very interesting sound experiments, however, they have extremely weak lyrics and both become tiring with time.
Unlike all other Arca’s projects that showed the singer floating alone over the war of distorted and disturbed sounds, Kick i brings very interesting collaborations that have an undeniable chemistry. Alongside SOPHIE, Arca shouts tirelessly “Menéalo” in “La Chíqui”. Although the track is the weakest collaboration and also one of the weakest tracks on the album, this one manages to mix the aesthetics of SOPHIE’s work with that of Arca in an extremely homogeneous way. It is almost as if they were a pair and had been playing for years. Fortunately, the other collaborations on the album are pretty great. Despite the track with ROSALÍA, “KLK, last a little longer than it should, this remains the most accessible track on the album due to the fact that it mixes reggaeton samples with the new trends of Arca while both build a letter that, although basic, is extremely captivating. However, none of these tracks are as good as “Afterwards”, the collaboration with Björk. While Arca seems to rescue the sound she worked on in Björk’s Utopia and merge with industrial synthesizers, the Icelandic singer releases sharp vocals that transcend the material plane, reaching a kind of spiritual feeling. Right after she recited a poem by Antonio Machado from the beginning of the last century (“Anoche cuando dormia”), Arca appears in a softer and somber voice, creating a kind of spirit that wanders through the night. A whole new feeling has emerged here.
As previously mentioned, there are moments in KiCk i that the sound mixes different elements and trends not only from Arca’s career, but also from the entire music industry. “Machote” is one of the best on the entire album. Even though it uses a sound that easily resembles the electronic music of the past few decades, the ambient work and atmosphere that this track has is incredible. While everything seems to sound like an electronic dream, Arca talks about a good, handsome, fair and intelligent man (“Quiero un machote / Quiero uno ya / Quiero un varón that separates me from touching / Quiero un tipo que sepa amor”). “Time” has synthetic keyboards that can be easily recognized and admired by the larger audience; however, the best part is the voice of Arca that, despite sounding robotized, has an incredible and beautiful performance. Finally, “Mequetrefe” is my favorite. It is a track that combines excellent production with fun vocal and instrumental smoothness. As much as the track has its moments of tension, it almost always sounds like something light, captivating and pleasant to hear, in addition to having the most captivating chorus on the album: “Mami quiere mequetrefe / Mira cómo ella se crece /” You know what, what? / Have the personality / Le da, le da, le da, le da”.
Of course, there are times here that are relatively bad. In addition to all the other negative points, such as some collaborations and some lyrics that were weak in relation to the other Arca projects, “Riquiquí” shows an intrinsic confusion that is far from inspiring and has a lyric that, despite being about self-confidence and self-love, is very forgettable. The only remarkable moment here ends up being the end, where she sings: “Como una gata / Co-omo una ga-ta / En cámara lenta”. Fortunately, none of these points are enough to take Kick i down. After lovely moments, like “Calor” where she shows an incredible vocal performance as an excellent production, we arrived at “No Queda Nada”, the closing of the album. Despite being almost 6 minutes long, this track seems to be shorter than it should be. While Arca reaches a voice of a deity, she thanks her fiancé, Carlos, for being with her all this time. The notes sound deep and dense in the background alongside synthesizers that pass through our heads like ghosts. It’s just a very beautiful and sentimental track. Finally, even though this may not be Arca’s best album, it remains as the most important for the simple fact of showing her happy.