Arca Plunges Into the Abstract Theater of the Mind With ‘Mutant’

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Although Mutant, the second album by Venezuelan genius producer Alejandro Ghersi, might seem like a surreal exploration of sound, it actually feels more like real life than expected. As Arca, Ghersi has a gift for transcending form and delivering raw emotion through sound.

There’s a famous quote by Mark Twain that goes, “Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to stick to possibility, and the truth ain’t.” The same way a writer is responsible for dreaming of plausible plots and outcomes, as well as keeping stories formatted to have a beginning, middle, and an end (although not necessarily in that order), music tends to adhere to a standard format to represent the feelings and thoughts of the songwriter. It’s hard to communicate without tried and true forms.

On the other hand, life is not as neat and orderly as many literary or musical works. For the most part, life comes at us a million miles an hour, and it’s up to our brains to make sense of it all. Many artistic creations that reflect aspects of everyday life, as well as escape from it. Arca is one of the few artists whose music seems to mirror the manic experience of existence, the reflexive functions of the human body (like breathing or blood pumping), in addition to the ability of our brains to process reality. It’s difficult not to think of the mess of life while listening to this.

Although known for his (slightly) more straightforward productions for artists like Kanye West, Björk, and FKA Twigs, Ghersi’s solo music tends to follow its own path, closer to other sound explorers like Tri Angle Records members Lotic and Rabit. His debut, Xen, was a collage of sound and rhythm that left listeners dazzled. A little over a year later, his second work is finally here.

On first listen, it’s tempting to dismiss Mutant as more of the same. A close listen reveals an ambitious work, an evolution in style, and above all, a narrative that makes this work stellar. It’s an epic journey from start to finish, structured to accompany the listener throughout their voyage into Arca’s world. Yet every track is sufficiently fleshed out to stand on its own. “Front Load,” one of the few pieces that relies on traditional beats and melodies, is an excellent track for a fire playlist, but it also functions as a breather, especially after the frantic and punishing “Hymn.”

On “Sinner,” there’s a snippet of a chopped piano that could have been lifted from a son cubano or salsa song, placed among buzzing and pulsing electronics. This lasts for just a few seconds, but it makes an impression. Ghersi is perhaps putting his memories and life experience to music, letting his abstract thoughts become sound. Mutant is Ghersi’s brain in sonic form.

It’s undeniable that Arca makes a vivid world out of his experimental music. Images, moods, and textures pop into one’s head, conjuring a sensorial experience of unspeakable beauty, calm, stress, and horror. It makes me think of the human condition overall. Even if this is the intention Alejandro had while making the record, it’s remarkable how he crafts a sound that mirrors everyday life without sounding like it whatsoever; Mutant immerses us into a world that’s at once both strange and familiar.