Arca gets up close and personal on his third album.XL Recordings, 2017
8.3 / 10
What do we know about Alejandro Ghersi, aka Arca, so far? Well, he creates interesting, odd electronic music. He also decorates his full-length albums with the strangest cover art. His latest is no different. Up close in the musician’s face, it’s no less uncomfortable. However, this choice, as well as self-titling his third album, makes it clear that Arca is personal. So personal that the Venezuelan electronic producer even contributes his voice for the first time. However, unless you’re fluent in Spanish, Ghersi may lose you. Ghersi chooses to only sing in Spanish on the album. Ghersi gives a clear reason as to why. He says it’s “the language that my parents fought in and they got divorced in. It’s the language I witnessed family violence in.”
The choice is an artistic one, but it’s a shame for many English-speaking listeners. Some of them likely won’t put the effort into translating the songs or learning their true meaning. And it’s a shame because Ghersi loads them with dynamic symbolism. Although Ghersi sings in Spanish, it’s evident that the musician’s voice is a powerful tool. Its operatic quality melds beautifully with his elaborate electronic compositions. Ghersi says that the album’s theme revolves around finding happiness in an otherwise sad world.
“Piel” (English translation: “Skin”) opens the album. Ghersi starts by humming melodically as a sharp tone pierces your ears. Dark bass begins to rumble while his voice retains its fragile nature. The song deals with peeling one’s skin off and becoming a new person. As you create distance from the old you, do you know anymore as this new individual? The music is spooky but also strangely signifies this transformation into someone new. It’s dark and even strangely erotic.
Eroticism has always been a part of Ghersi’s music. And here, it’s even more prominent. Arca seemingly tells a story of a person Ghersi admires from afar but cannot be with. On “Coraje”, he seems to be coming to grips that he cannot be with this person. “Ever since I saw you/ There were no confusions/ You’re not for me,” he sings (but in Spanish on the album). This creates a void in Ghersi’s life that he seeks to remove. “Desafio” plays off this idea as Ghersi gives himself over to someone completely. He wants this person to violate him so that he can feel alive. The song’s textures glide softly about; though, its lyrics are dark. It’s strangely soft, comforting and eases that inner anxiety, which cripples.
Ghersi is at his most sexual on “Miel” (English translation: “Honey”). He sings that his lover knows where to find honey (someone else) while he struggles to do so. As he addresses his former lover, he asks for him to undress him and later “eat” him. Ghersi is seemingly urging his former lover to dominate him. And maybe for his ex to use the extreme measures that the instrumental “Whip” hints at. Will this allow Ghersi to find the happiness he desires? We may not know. The album closes with the anti-climatic “Child”, an instrumental that says nothing that hasn’t already been felt. But what a feeling it is.