Album Review: Arca – KiCk i

By Kiah Easton, Editorial Director
[XL Recordings; 2020]
Rating: 7/10

Key tracks: “Time”, “Mequetrefe ”, “La Chiqui”

KiCk i is the first studio album in over three years from Alejandra Ghersi, more popularly known as Arca. Within these three years, Arca went through somewhat of a transformation within the public eye and publicly stated her non-binary identity in 2018. KiCk i is exemplary of this – it is an album of growth, experimentation, and rebirth. Flickering between abrasive, syncopated, industrial percussion, and glistening ambient beauty, this project refuses to let its listener get comfortable. The cover pictures Arca standing tall with the help of mechanical leg extensions and metal claws made by her partner Carlos Sáez. The imagery mixes organic with metal. In a similar way, the sonics mix organic beauty with harsh digitally warped and designed sounds.

“Time” is the second track on the project, a breath of fresh air after the aggressive percussion and confidence of “Nonbinary”. Synths bounce in a trot-like rhythm as Arca’s voice spreads out and mixes with the ambiance of the track. The video for “Time” pictures Arca lit by dim lights, kissing Carlos Sáez dressed as a purple devil in a suit. In Arca’s experimental nature, this may be Arca’s closest thing to a love song. The lyrics speak about desire and acceptance, central feelings to the human experience – perhaps Arca’s, especially.

After “Time” fades into rest, then comes “Mequetrefe”.  Irregular rhythms that stutter and glitch under Arca’s truncated, choppy vocal delivery work to disorient and challenge the listener’s brain. Opening up into a seemingly organic guitar melody, but warped by the algorithms of Arca’s primary digital audio workstation, Ableton, the chaos drops out – leaving the guitar and fluttering hi-hats that ramp up into the chorus. Fluttering percussive and mutant vocals that chant “le da” which translates to “it gives”, encompass the sonic space creating a sense of urgent movement through the arrangement. “Mequetrefe” reinforces the theme of organic digital fusion found throughout the project.

“La Chiquí” is notable for several reasons, one being its feature of fellow experimental musical titan SOPHIE. Again, this song is an assault on the ear – rhythms that confuse and disorient – like a bolt coming loose in a washing machine. Structure is eventually brought by a demanding bass, blowing away the clutter temporarily. Arca’s voice wriggles and squirms over the bass pattern. A higher layer of drums incorporate again adding texture and movement. Fluctuating between structure and chaos, “La Chiquí” and much of Arca’s music, seems to mimic complexity in human states of emotion. Fragile – bouncing from form to form; our minds are chaotic loosely bound by structure.

As a project, KiCk i is fluid, evolving, and hard to define, much like Arca itself. There is beauty in that fluctuation. No one and nothing ever really stays exactly the same and the various forms that things assume adds texture to our experiences. Arca goes from imparting her wildly experimental and chaotic nature fully, creating structureless meshes of sound, to allowing structure to shape her music into tight beautifully expressive ballads. Perhaps Arca’s music will never be digestible to mass audiences, but it feels true to her experience. Cohesive at points, but too variable to confine, KiCk i is glued together only by its function, to express and create.

Listen here:

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