Arca presents an imposing pop listen with Mutant

Arca MutantEven if you haven't listened to any music by Alejandro Ghersi, chances are you've encountered his production style. The Venezuelan born, London based producer has been active for a few years, putting out his own material under the Arca moniker. However he has also had a hand in albums by FKA TwigsBjörk and some guy called Kanye West. It is important to note that Ghersi had been active for little more than a year before being tapped to produce four tracks from Yeezus. To say he's made a rapid ascent in the world would be putting it mildly.

His second full length album, Mutant, follows on from last year's debut Xen, and is quite an imposing listen; 20 tracks and 62 minutes long, it's not to be taken lightly. Some of those tracks are reprised from Sheep, his 17-minute live score for a Hood By Air fashion show from earlier this year. There's something undeniably weird and grotesque about it, but it's also rather striking - much like whatever the hell is happening on its cover, which in itself is reminiscent of the sometimes disturbing and frequently NSFW body horror-focused videos for Xen.

Those 20 tracks, on reflection, seem like mere signposts for the direction of the record; once "Alive" and the sparkling melodies of the 7-and-a-half-minute title track have come and gone, it's better if you don't keep track of where the rest of the album is headed. It's easy to imagine that Ghersi's original plan was along the lines of, 'screw it, I'll release this as a single track' before Mute said otherwise, because the album's flow is such that it would have worked as exactly that.

Less clear cut and melodic than its predecessor, structures and chord progressions are warped and manipulated as he sees fit, with accessible pieces like "Snakes" and the colossal sounding "Soichiro" starting from a relatively conventional place, before being moulded into a more, shall we say, Arca-esque creation. As a whole, the album has more to do with a straightforward pop record than one might realise, in a similar manner to Oneohtrix Point Never's recently released Garden of Delete. "Front Load" tips its cap to modern r'n'b and possesses the sort of hook that, say, Drake could work wonders with.

"Else", meanwhile, features a blissful piano motif whose beauty is unsullied by the crashing, distorted drums that threaten to erupt towards the track's close, before leading into the percussive blasts of "Umbilical", the latter of which is notable for having the only instance of vocals on the record, before leading into "Hymn", taking three deft musical turns in a shade under 7 minutes. Ideas come at the listener at a rapid, sometimes relentless pace, but by the time "Peonies" brings the whole thing to an uneasy, cautious halt - more a cliffhanger than a natural ending - the urge to dive back into Ghersi's fascinating and complex soundscapes is overwhelming. Try listening to Mutant just once, we dare you.

Release: 20th November 2015, Mute


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