A captivating reaching of pained highs and battered lows…
Arca - Xen

Finding the number 7 key jammed for ‘&&&&&’, a mixtape that built on the underground hip­hop tropes of the ‘Stretch’ series in a freestyle of slow­drying electronic concrete, Alejandro Ghersi dares you find a pigeonhole for his debut long-player.

As his own muse – with no small matter of KanyeFKA twigs or Björk to work around – Arca’s window to the soul has become one daubed in day­glo graffiti, held together by cinematic hope visibly wearing its fractures.

Maximalism cuts itself to ribbons, shocked by techno backfires that make ‘Xen’ a nomadic, undulating experience. Everything is do­or­die, reeling off harried divisions where booming basslines that unseat synth carousels are the least of your problems. Piercingly high-pitched requiems bounce off stained-glass panes, cast as pacifiers in light of stark solo repentance. ‘Failed’ shrieks the album to a hi­def halt like a PTSD flashback, and when string panic of ‘Family Violence’ immediately follows, Arca’s volatility plays to a twisted ballet of rainbows and landslides.

The otherworldliness of ‘Xen’ is down to this moving of brightness through a mutinous church of new-school New Romanticism, with more archetypal monochromes – ‘Bullet Chained’ develops a techno arrhythmia with an 8­bit blister – inserted like trapdoors. A captivating, at times unexplainable reaching of pained highs and battered lows.

8/10

Words: Matt Oliver

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