Venezuelan producer-musician-rapper Arca has already made a name for himself. Besides several excellent EPs, he’s got production credits on both Kanye West’s “Yeezus” and FKA Twigs’ “LP1.” With his debut full-length, though, Arca has literally made another name for himself: “Xen.” The eponymous figure on the album’s front cover is apparently some sort of loopy androgynous alter-ego for the musician.
This is fitting, since Xen’s glistening, oddly-proportioned body is an apt descriptor of the album’s style. Here, squishy synths brush up against distended vocals and phased-out rhythms, all stopping and starting and intersecting at odd angles. Tones seem to spread across audible frequencies like fungus. Huge gaps in sound are balanced by moments of hyperactivity. Even a moment of faux-classical music, complete with violin-like tones, falls prey to the musician’s weird sense of rhythm and tonality.
Arca is the only musician I can think of who could pull off something like this without surrendering to total chaos. Somehow, he manages to impose a kind of order on these tracks, so that each one feels like a separate – equally intriguing – musical idea. In fact, a couple of the songs could even be described as relaxing. “Thievery,” the lead single, definitely grooves for most of its duration. For those looking to subsume themselves in Arca’s unique soundscapes, this is where I’d start.