Alejandro Ghersi aka Arca, has been making waves in the electronic music scene for a few years now. With his self-titled, third release, Arca, the producer has cemented himself a pioneer of modern electronica.
His music is abrasive yet deeply engaging. Ghersi’s projects are known to be both abrasive and captivating. Before this release, the distorted, aggressive soundscapes Ghersi delivered were uncomfortable and moving, without elegance. To me, this was more the embodiment of Arca, rather than Ghersi. With this new album, Arca lets his humanity shine through.
A common disregard to electronic music is that ‘it’s noise’. However, Ghersi has always had control over his noise and despite what some may say, emotion has been the backbone to his music. Only those emotions had been so contorted and mechanised to become what they were.
Arca is a man laid bare, it’s emotionally driven – there’s a heart within its core. The sound-waves clash and ripple, the synths have purpose and the distortion is alive. With this new release, Ghersi has found his humanity, something people can gravitate towards and it’s been there all along…
Arca is his first body of work to truly embrace his voice in its natural, pure state. Having taken that step, he has finally become much more than a glorified, innovative producer. He is now an Angel amongst the dissonance. From the beginning of the album, his haunting Spanish vocals echo over a harsh, surging tone.
“Piel” sets the mood of the album, a devastatingly beautiful journey into the man that is Alejandro Ghersi. There is such a heavy weight behind the introductory track, propelled by the bass rising and consuming everything, like a cloud of ash and rubble. It emanates sorrow, a hint that this album will be an embodiment of complex emotions.
Musically, it’s a dense, discomforting experience. Whilst Ghersi delivers breathtaking vocals, the backdrop is often the opposite. There is chaos, it can be sonically messy. All of the layers clash and swirl birthing stranger sounds.
In the foray, you’ll find a simple piano melody or a gargling synth spewing forth electronically charged tendrils, both ominous but in different ways. “Saunter’s” volatile synth work builds up to the crescendo of Ghersi’s operatic vocals. Once they enter, the track descends into white noise, making way for the next offering “Urchin”.
“Urchin” is a mournful number, its composition akin to a hyper-cinematic score accompanying a scene of a drowning child. It carries that kind of emotional weight. The way the layers come together to create a thick wall of noise, is similar to water. It’s suffocating and in the distance is an echoing voice, whilst a piano surges urgently. It’s visceral.
What follows is one of Ghersi’s best tracks to date, “Reverie”. It borrows the foreboding, emotional gears of “Urchin”, upping the stakes even more. Mid-way through, a powerful vocal-break bursts through, merging with the extraterrestrial sounding synths. Ghersi’s vocals stutter and contort in such harmony, bringing the song to an unexpected yet remarkable close. It’s the creativity behind ‘Arca’ that lends to its superb sound.
The forty-three minute run-time is relentless. There is always a pounding, ever-nearing sense of dread or sadness. It’s reinforced by his otherworldly vocals that really help bring this project together. In fact, the addition of his unrefined voice makes this project what it is, a triumph for electronic music.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Take the seductive, eerie “Sin Rumbo” which features smooth, romanticised melodies over an orchestral instrumental. It showcases Ghersi’s vocal range too. (Two words: mind-blowing). After two minutes in, he unleashes a howl that ricochets and it’s spine-chilling. Although there is plenty of earth-shattering sounds and aural battering, Arca features the producers first pop track.
“Desafio” is Ghersi’s take on a more traditional pop song, whilst keeping it in his world. It’s full of lust and longing, oozing through the ethereal soundscape. The chorus is sublime and competes with many of your favoured pop artists.
Even though all of Ghersi’s vocals are in Spanish, it doesn’t detract from the listening experience. It strengthens the project, adding another flavour to the album. It wouldn’t be the album that it is, if it wasn’t for Ghersi’s commitment and determination to be himself.
Arca is a monumental album, both in scope and content. It’s emotional and uncompromising, because of those two things alone, it deserves a chance. No album in quite some time, especially of this genre has managed to use those two ingredients with success.
It’s the closest an electronic artist has brought their music to life, it’s born more from humanity than the machines that helped compose it. Alejandro Ghersi is a force to be reckoned with, Arca isn’t just a moniker, but the process of bringing change to a well-respected, revered genre. This album is the perfect hybrid of human and machine.
Arca is out now via XL Recordings, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Jake Gould