Arca is the recording name alias for Alejandro Ghersi, a 24 year old producer and DJ who originally hails from Venezuela. Ghersi spent his formative years switching between stints spent there and stints spent in the US: a constant need to switch between English and Spanish in order to express himself during his formative years, has interestingly resulted in this record, Xen, an album without words.
Words though, would detract from what this record is, and though in his earlier EP’s such as Stretch 1 and Stretch 2, have experimented with vocal tracks, this record is a pure and undistilled showcase of Ghersi’s talent at creating utterly unexpected new forms of noise. The album is not entirely devoid of vocal presence though, and in ‘Thievery’, a track with such an upbeat, steady rhythm it immediately suggests itself as something that could be danced to as well as critically lauded, a males’ vocals are cut pasted and sampled so that they sound like a genuinely new percussive instrument in their own right.
In ‘Wound’, what sounds to be male and female vocals are autotune distorted to the extent that whatever words being sung have been blurred out, and we are left with voices used as wonderfully emotive instruments, over a chorus of strings. It is a stand out track because it manages to bring some emotional depth to the record, while remaining truthful to its experimental core.
The genre Ghersi is working in could be described as hip hop, though it keels very heavily towards the experimental side of the genre and is about as different from the Australian-accented raps over sped up loops of old soul music that our country is currently at the forefront of, as chalk is from cheese. Instead it sounds like the kind of music the natural born child of Aphex Twin and let’s say, an alien, might produce. No surprises then that Arca is set to collaborate with Björk on her forthcoming record. Other collaborations of note include production on Kanye West’s Yeezus track ‘Blood on the Leaves’, and extensive work with FKA Twigs on her acclaimed LP1.
Ghersi’s production technique involves the use of multiple samples as well as actual recordings of instruments that have been distorted, to create pieces with more conventional melodic structure, such as ‘Slit Thru’, through to pieces that use ever so traditional sample sounds, like violins.In a piece like ‘Family Violence’ the bottom-pitched violins lurch towards a conventional rhythm while the upper samples of violin become increasingly high-pitched and disjointed, to a scattered and ultimately skin-crawlingly uncomfortable effect.
This is however, the desired effect. From the chosen album cover art designed by his collaborator Jesse Kanda of an amorphous female figure with dripping rippling skin, to his ice-chilled production technique, Ghersi has succeeded in bringing into creation a disturbing and unique musical niche of his own
Reviewed by Emma Doherty