Arca’s new album mutates into something great

With credits ranging from Yeezus to FKA twigs to Bjork, the Venezuelan-born producer Alejandro Ghersi has had an unusual career, walking the line between mainstream and underground production. He’s injected his albums with his abstract style of industrial schizophrenic and glitch electronica. At first listen, Ghersi’s production seems random and twitchy, with no sense of rhyme or rhythm, yet when taking a closer look, there seems to be some form of method to his madness. His music is alive, constantly transforming as each track goes on, leaving the listener always guessing what direction it will take. This organic aspect of music carries over onto his sophomore album, “Mutant.”

As the name of the album implies, each song on this 20-track record takes a life of its own, as if it’s an organic creature, growing with every passing second. The album exhibits such otherworldly qualities, bombarding the ear with unique and tense soundscapes. The second track on the album, “Mutant” is a perfect example of this, because it encapsulates this dark, ambient tone that carries on into the 7-minute track. It starts off barebones and builds upon itself, like alien thriving in a foreign environment, and leaves the listener in an epileptic shock.

This sensory overload continues into the next few tracks like “Sinner” that emanates a sense of urgency. With hard-hitting drums that replicate a rising heart rate, this disturbing track puts the listener in the shoes of someone trying to escape, with glitched out sirens blaring in the background, that creates a tense and stressful mood. However, that’s where the beauty lies in this album. There seems to be this duality that Ghersi is obsessed with in comparing two extremes with each track. He seems to find beauty in the repulsive, a sense of clarity in the confusion, and breaks any conventional or logical thought process.

Carrying on with this clash of opposites, the song, “Umbilical” is quite possibly the most mind bending of the tracks on the album. With earsplitting electronic breaks, Ghersi combines these dissonant melodies with one of the few human connections on this album in the form of a voice sample by what sounds like an indigenous tribe. This track is reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” in the sense that there seems to be a sinister undertone with the sample combined with the electronic backdrop, yet there seems to be a moment of catharsis at the end of the track, relaxing the listener in a very disconcerting way.

The only other track on this album that exhibits this human aspect is “En” with another distressing voice sample layered on top of a myriad of broken fragments that is the beat of the song. It’s like watching glass shatter in slow-motion, in the sense that so much is happening in such a short amount of time, and it’s as if the beat is reassembling itself, trying to scrape together what’s left.

That’s the most interesting aspect of this album. It combines the masterful production of artists such as Aphex Twin with avant-garde, mind bending beat structures reminiscent of Death Grips and Flying Lotus’ album “Los Angeles.” By no means is this album an easy listen, as it bombards the listener and leaves anyone who dares listen in a daze. The dark ambience of the album combined with such cold and harsh production lends itself to turn off most listeners. Despite this, the album is one of the most interesting and eclectic releases in the past couple years. Spanish painter Francisco de Goya once said, “But where do they find these lines in nature? I can only see luminous or obscure masses, planes that advance or planes that recede, reliefs or background. My eye never catches lines or details.” This is what listening to “Mutant” is like: obscure and never really in focus.

 Rating: 4.5 stars

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