It’s been less than a month since Alejandro Ghersi announced the release of his eponymous Arca album and he hasn’t stopped pouring music on us since. Of the 13 tracks included in his third full-length feature – the first released with XL – nine spotlight his singing voice as a prominent musical element, with mesmerizing and heart-wrenching effects. (We now know Björk is the person to thank for this.) “Piel,” “Anoche,” and “Sin Rumbo” have already made us shed a tear or two with their raw emotion, and now we can add add “Reverie” to that list.
“Reverie,” the track that gave the tentative name to the album before it was changed to Arca, begins with the shifting notes of bowed strings, dropping progressively into a fractured beat that exalts the tension between the moody harmony and occasional distortion. Atop it all shines Ghersi’s voice, a melancholy light. He borrows lyrics from the legendary Simón Díaz standard “Caballo Viejo,” which came to him in a stream-of-consciousness writing process and helped him convey his message of impulse and need for love.
For its music video, Arca and his trusty collaborator and friend Jesse Kanda conceived an idea that seems less shocking than many of their previous joint efforts –until it doesn’t. Through an elaborate bullfighting metaphor, Ghersi portrays both the matador and the bull, simultaneously wearing an all-white chaquetilla and a pair of reverse leg stilts that virtually give him hoofs, paired up with his usual ripped fishnets.
When a horn pierces his groin, blood comes out of his rear and the tension found in the song unravels visually. Now as a wounded half-beast being, he collapses on a platform while he’s showered with flower petals. There’s an underlying sexual connotation –after all, that horn does look like rather phallic, and the source of the bleeding is no coincidence. Altogether it’s meant to represent the animalistic and spiritual duality of invoking sex through the bullfighting metaphor, as Ghersi explains.
As in his last two videos, Arca continues to be the master of the ugly/beautiful approach, but this time with more refinement and scaled-down shock values.