Having promised to make two more albums to turn her KiCk project into a trilogy, at the last minute Arca turns out to have made a pentalogy, releasing four additional works this week. That’s 47 new tracks and well over two hours of wild electronic experimentation, pushing sonic boundaries in ways that can mesmerise and terrify in turn.
It’s confirmation that the Venezuelan producer-performer also known as Alejandra Ghersi is a lot. Watching her can involve chatty, spontaneous Instagram Live sessions, split-screen rushes of music in progress on Twitch, or gathering in New York arts venue The Shed to witness her strapping on futuristic stilts to ride a mechanical bull. Her music videos can be so extreme that YouTube asks for your credit card details to verify that you’re old enough to see them. On the covers of these albums she’s a giant robot mermaid surrounded by scaffolding, a naked warrior straddling a terrible mutant dog, a squatting spider creature laying fiery eggs, and a two-headed dominatrix holding five two-headed skeletons on leashes. We’re not at the Adele comeback any more, Toto.
But living at the bleeding edge hasn’t stopped her from infiltrating the mainstream to an extent. When Kanye West heard her early EPs he used her production skills on four songs on his Yeezus album. She was the main collaborator on the last two Björk albums, and FKA twigs has also worked with her.
Newcomers looking for the least bumpy path into the Arca universe could try Born Yesterday, on ii, which sees the chart-topping voice of Sia providing a hummable melody over relatively regular beats. Shirley Manson from Garbage is here too, on Alien, on iiii, talking about the “post human celestial sparkle” over distant rumbling synths.
While it’s hard to single out obvious highlights amid such a deluge, the range of material on offer is huge and rarely feels repetitive. Arca’s voice alone can be a growl, a soft croon, rapped in Spanish, twisted to impossible heights or chopped and shattered into unrecognisable bits. She provides danceable reggaeton beats on Prada and what sounds like the number one single of 2121 on Rubberneck.
So far it feels like ii offers the most complete experience as a single album, iii is hyperactive and jittery to a generally irritating extent, and iiii and iiiii are largely beat-free with the tragic, majestic beauty of a cracking glacier. But come back in a few decades when I’ve finally taken it all in.