ArcaSKU: XLLP834



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.

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