Hippos In Tanks, Venezuela
by Carlos Reyes
Pierre Lestruhaut was the first critic to write a proper album review for Arca. Within hours of its publication, the mastermind behind it (Alejandro Ghersi, formerly known around these parts as Nuuro) reached out to us hoping we could adjust our review for Baron Libre. The Venezuelan producer explained that he envisioned this project as something coming out of a black canvas, hoping to pull off an anonymous contour a la Burial. To which we agreed (with very little enthusiasm) to remove his name (and a whole introductory paragraph) from the review. Such request seems silly now. Little did Ghersi know that just one year later, his name would appear on every publication out there as he became exposed to world acknowledgment as one of the producers of Yeezus, the most mystifying album by Kanye West.
Since we never really got to properly introduce Ghersi’s incarnation as Arca, we might as well do so now. Despite earning a glorious emancipation with The Reddest Ruby, Nuuro never seemed to escape the description of being a prodigy producer. I’m sure I’m not the only that still carries “Safe Safe Safe” and “256 MB of Love” on my ipod. The idea of letting them go doesn’t sit well with me. But it’s only a transitory feeling. Because whenever I find myself trapped in the world of Arca, there really isn’t any other music I’d rather be listening to. Ghersi got bold and serious with Arca. And as the very brave Lestruhaut pointed out on his second time reviewing him (Stretch 2), Arca also became a very difficult act to articulate about. Perhaps I’m taking the easy route to approach his music, but dissecting an artist’s past, and making good terms with it, makes the journalistic duty less intimidating.
Much like reviewing Baron Libre and the two volumes of Stretch, Arca’s sole release this year is a challenge. Conceptually, &&&&& could be read as either Arca’s most selective release yet, or as its less official work yet. Considering he had three releases last year, we could make the case this is his most collected reference yet. In the other hand, this one has been structured as a mixtape, and thus, it doesn’t carry the essential assertion of an official release. Whichever way it was conceived, &&&& is far from a novelty. From the get-go, it’s best to make peace with the mixtape's dense inscrutability. Ghersi’s experimental endeavors here are interchangeably exciting, maddening, perverse, and terrifying.
The fact that the mixtape isn’t fragmented by individual tracks makes it hard to pinpoint to precise hotspots, and that actually makes things exciting. Of course, there are defined choices made by Ghersi that stand out: the whimsical fairies on minute four, the unconsoling piano on minute twelve, the terrifying howl on minute seventeen, and the verbalization of a post-everything society at the twenty-one minute mark. At 25min. long, &&&& is ever-peeling but not superfluous. There’s an emotional restraint/awakening in its genetics that resonates well with the human condition. Like its artwork, &&&&& is cacophonic, broken and grotesque. Arca provokes and dislocates, but also provides shelter under his umbrella. It’s like imagining Werner Herzog and David Lynch sharing a seesaw –like taking a peek into a future that’s already here.