Finding the number 7 key jammed for ‘&&&&&’, a mixtape that built on the underground hiphop tropes of the ‘Stretch’ series in a freestyle of slowdrying electronic concrete, Alejandro Ghersi dares you find a pigeonhole for his debut long-player.
As his own muse – with no small matter of Kanye, FKA twigs or Björk to work around – Arca’s window to the soul has become one daubed in dayglo graffiti, held together by cinematic hope visibly wearing its fractures.
Maximalism cuts itself to ribbons, shocked by techno backfires that make ‘Xen’ a nomadic, undulating experience. Everything is doordie, reeling off harried divisions where booming basslines that unseat synth carousels are the least of your problems. Piercingly high-pitched requiems bounce off stained-glass panes, cast as pacifiers in light of stark solo repentance. ‘Failed’ shrieks the album to a hidef halt like a PTSD flashback, and when string panic of ‘Family Violence’ immediately follows, Arca’s volatility plays to a twisted ballet of rainbows and landslides.
The otherworldliness of ‘Xen’ is down to this moving of brightness through a mutinous church of new-school New Romanticism, with more archetypal monochromes – ‘Bullet Chained’ develops a techno arrhythmia with an 8bit blister – inserted like trapdoors. A captivating, at times unexplainable reaching of pained highs and battered lows.
Words: Matt Oliver
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