On Arca’s amazing 3rd, eponymous album - his debut for XL - the Venezuelan/American artist reveals his vocals, guts and more (check the press shots; which, to be fair, aren’t a patch on E+E’s old Myspace pic) in a riveting suite of tortuous torch songs riddled with violent electronic tones and heart-wrenching levels of emotive pathos.
If Xen  was a chrysalis for Arca to nervously find his place in the world, and Mutant  revealed him shedding that exosleketon and becoming flesh, then Arca documents the preeminent artist coming to terms with his soul in typically unflinching fashion thru 13 songs about, well, we’re not 100% sure; but they’re detectably as heavy as your life and every bit as unnerving, compelling as the sore, longing face looking out from Jesse Kanda’s artwork.
After first coaxing his voice out on the Entrañas mixtape in summer ’16, it is now a fully fledged and confidently integral part of his music on Arca, and to the extent it’s now almost hard to imagine his sound without it. Ranging from quivering, castrati-style to richer, processed lows, it turns out to be the perfect foil for his plasmic electronic scales, serving to match and emphasise the operatic/cabaret dramaturgy of his arrangements with an effect at times as surreal as Julee Cruise’s performances in Twin Peaks, or one of Coil’s studio sprites come to life, or even like some Kaspar Hauser-esque R&B diva who just emerged from another dimension.
Lead singles Piel and Anoche set the scene for 43 minutes of the most arresting music you’ll hear in 2017, sweeping us thru the windswept crest of Saunter and the oily sensuality of Reverie to the pinched, curdled chamber music of Castration at the album’s agitated instrumental core, whose chaos subsides to make the appearance of his soaring vox in Sin Rumbo (a highlight of the aforementioned Entraps mixtape) that much more poignant.
Farther in, you can trust Arca’s visceral sound design skills are in cutting effect with Whip, used to beautiful effect framing rave horns and expansive swooshes around the naked, shivering but soaring vox of Desafío, while Fugaces sounds like Julee Cruise reworked by Elysia Crampton, and Child dances on your nerve endings like Drukqs-era AFX rescoring Vangelis for prepared piano.