Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Arca

  • Stretch 1 [UNO NYC, 2012] ***
  • Stretch 2 [UNO NYC, 2012] B+
  • Xen [Mute, 2014] **
  • Mutant [Mute, 2015] A-
  • Entranas [self-released, 2016] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Stretch 1 [UNO NYC, 2012]
Making up his own language more mischievously than doomsayers have ears to discern ("Ass Swung Low," "Dignity") ***

Stretch 2 [UNO NYC, 2012]
So what's going on in these nine, to quote the experts, "misshapen," "warped, hellish," "floridly mutant" "hymns to God knows what"? I direct you to "Laughing at Scary Voices," a consideration of Swedish electro-mutants the Knife in the February, 2011 Perfect Sound Forever by none other than Alejandro Ghersi. To wit: "David Lynch and Charles Burns and the Knife approach haunting images, absurdity, unappealing humans, and loneliness in all of their work." However: "The Knife's lyrics resist parsing in the same way that Lynch's Mulholland Drive timeline resists parsing and Burns's Black Hole resists being taken seriously." So therefore: "The only thing we can do with certainty is laugh at the dark world they've created and, in the process, laugh at our own undeniably fucked up society." You go on from there. B+

Xen [Mute, 2014]
Striking and unpresumptuous, albeit residually quasisymphonic, but I do get happier every time he interjects half a hook ("Lonely Thugg," "Xen") **

Mutant [Mute, 2015]
Initially, I spun this album to get rid of it--to insure that, as with most unmarked CDs in jewelcases lacking title and slug line, it was safe to stick it where the laser don't shine. Only after I realized how impressed I was by these grooveless, tuneless electronic instrumentals did I make out on the back cover the birthname of my old NYU student Alejandro Ghersi--who as Arca has since become a Yeezus collaborator and Fader cover boy as well as co-producing a Björk album I'll leave to her fanbase. In other words, I really liked this music before I knew I knew its creator. Those who claim it has a structure as opposed to a sequence are probably imagining things. But the tunelessness of the music doesn't always mean it's amelodic and the groovelessness rarely means it stands still. My faves often tie in alien elements--"Umbilical" with its Mbuti chant, "Sinner" with its virtual bellows breathing in and out, "Faggot" with its bells-and-choirboy undergirding and stuttering aggro finale. But tune in anytime during this 20-track hour and chances are you'll hear something you've never heard before--and want to hear it again, to make sure you were right the first time. A-

Entranas [self-released, 2016]
Translates Entrails. Streamable at Soundcloud, downloadable at Mediafire. Divides 25 minutes into 14 untimed titles I estimate as breaking 0:00, 0:48, 2:40, 3:58; 4:29, 5:06, 5:28, 6:15-6:48, 10:38, 13:10, 13:50, 15:24, ???, 20:49, 24:10, and damn right I could be wrong, although not about 5:28. Since Alejandro Ghersi once took a class from me, discretion suggested that I respectfully note the existence of this unballyhooed abstract work from a sonic universe I seldom sample and leave it at that. But as has happened before with Arca, who's too big a deal to need my belated attention, I enjoyed its sounds too much not to say so--the lowing of "Torero," the booming of "Cement Garden Interlude," the preindustrial clatter of "Pargo." I also enjoyed Micachu's reflections on gender identity in 5:28's "Baby Doll." To simulate closure, however, it relies on the kind of choirboy soprano that's signified transcendence, spirituality, and other such rot since there were castrati who were known as such, and as ever I'm unconvinced. A-