Album Review: Arca – Xen

Alejandro Ghersi, or Arca, is an up-and-coming Venezualan electronic producer, who, after collaborating with Kanye West on last year’s Yeezus and accordingly entering mainstream musical territory, has now released his debut album, Xen. Since 2012, Ghersi has put out three EPs and one mixtape, all of which exhibit his peerless ability to synthesize obscure, unconventionally structured beats into a digestible musical narrative. Consequently, I expected Xen to be a noticeably more mature rendition of the narrative I have come to associate with him—especially considering that West likely showed him a trick or two when the pair worked in the studio together. The album is certainly well-developed and still exhibits his knack for meshing idiosyncratic hip hop samples with unpredictable downbeats; however, each track on the album sounds more like an isolated sound collage than a piece of a larger whole.

This year, Arca has been working with a London-based visual artist named Jesse Kanda, who has produced visuals to accompany many of the songs on the album. I believe their collaboration explains the tracks’ shortcomings: They excessively rely on visuals to complete them. Arca’s new artistic vision is fascinating and worth checking out, yet it is unfortunate that the beats on the album rely so heavily on Kanda’s visuals for integration when his former productions are so complete unaccompanied. Nevertheless, for a taste of 2014-style electronic music, the album is a solid place to start, but it’s certainly worth comparing to his older output in order to get a true sense of the album’s flawed audial/visual dichotomy.

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