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ARCA KiCk i gets 8/10


Arca
KiCk i
XL Recordings

8/10

Arca’s fourth album is a statement album from the Venezuelan producer, drawing from her considerable production skills to create a trans-masterpiece of sorts. From the opening track, it’s abundantly clear from Arca: she’s trans as fuck and proud of it. And perhaps even more importantly, reaching newfound creative heights and having an absolute ball.

Arca’s musical trajectory has seen her come out more as a trans-identifying artist through time, and on KiCk i it’s a full celebration of her arrival as a major musical talent with mic in hand, not merely content to remain behind the production desk.

Her first LPs were entirely instrumental, full of imagination and audacious ideas using supermodified electronic production techniques and beat science, with a penchant for cinematic orchestration that was otherworldly and daring. More recently, she’s been producing tracks for A-list performers such as Bjork, FKA Twigs and Kanye West, some of who return the favour on KiCk i by providing perfectly meshed vocals to Arca’s tracks.

KiCk i kicks it off with Nonbinary, starting with menacing dark tones, then bursting into a rapid-fire manifesto: “I don’t give a fuck what you think/ You don’t know me/ You might owe me/ But, bitch, you’ll never know me.” This Nonbinary proclamation to begin the album serves to sweep out the haters so the lovers can get down to business.

Time follows and is a gorgeous love song with synth washes that carry the emotion and sound like nothing else. Arca has developed this special sound over years with her instrumental work, but paired with the heartfelt lyrics, the song is able to go to a whole other level.

A couple of short bangers follow, with Mequetrefe channelling a little bit Richard D. James-era Aphex Twin with slap-happy jungle beats bouncing off a whimsical hyper-happy melody. The accompanying video shows off Arca’s visual approach: clearly the music and visuals inform each other in her creative universe. Riquiqui is a Spanish language number (there are many on the LP), with Arca’s signature abrasive, no-holds-barred beats and noise blasts that attempts to cage in a vaporous melody trying to break free for an exhilarating interaction of sounds.

Two ballads follow, with Calor (“warmth” in Spanish) delivering another touching love song. The sound of Arca’s pianos are among the most melancholy and longing in all of contemporary music, and again to hear them with the emotive singing is another highlight of KiCk i. Standout Afterwards is Björk’s showcase; perfectly cast in this spacious, minimalistic number, she truly takes it to the house, lifting the track to transcendent heights.

It’s more dancefloor devastation to follow, with guest spots on Watch featuring Shygirl and La Chíqui with SOPHIE chiming in on the call-and-response chorus. KLK features Rosalía over a steady reggaeton groove, with manic synths and Arca-esque pauses thrown in to keep you on your toes; but never mind, as Rosalía blows up on the track, making you long for the time when we were able to sweat on a crowded dancefloor again. Cheeky number Rip The Slit is a fun, dirty riddim that features the title repeated over and over. Nevertheless, the pulsating bassline makes it one of the more infectious grooves on the album.

The closing two Spanish language tracks dial back the intensity with Machote (“tough guy”), an auto-tuned laid-back number, and No Queda Nada (“nothing remains”) is an epic ballad to create a resolution to end the album.

KiCk i is a powerful statement from Arca. After years of focussing on composing abstract sound constructions, she’s fully embracing the spotlight here. There are still the abrasive and jarring aspects to her sound that may rub the wrong way with some, and the loud-soft-loud sequence of tracks can make for a restless listening experience, but Arca’s never compromised the presentation of her music. This is Arca, at her loudest and quietest, angriest and most in love, all on the same album. Arca has certainly arrived, and on her own terms.

PAUL DOUGHTY

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