Arca – KiCk iiii & iiiii: Review

Over the last few days, the intake of new music from Arca was at an all-time high – it was one helluva roller coaster ride. There were highs and exponential lows, but within the confines of these monstrous projects, there is an artist that’s ready to bloom. After a lackluster return-to-form approach in the third installment of her KiCk series, Arca breaks down musical layers as she strips the production into intimate pieces of somber electronic music in the last two projects of the series – within the music, we hear elements of Avant-classical, witch-house, ambient, and others that align in the spectrum. And in continuation with the varying themes throughout the series, both projects see themselves shifting into a slower progression as if the roller coaster is about to end its course.

KiCk iiii begins to descend into sounds that aren’t hyper-active or filtering through loud noise-relative overtones that shift it to a tonal consistency. However, it is more apparent in the final album of the KiCk series – iiiii, which has tonal consistency. But shifting back to the former, it brings forth a melancholic vibe boasting trippy sounds with its witch-house and ambient-wave overtones that splits the impact each project delivers. It takes us on a journey of transformation, acceptance, and freedom as we express ourselves through this whirlwind experience. Like the second album, these two albums carry themselves firmly, on two feet, as Arca creates these new sounds that personify a new chapter. 

Through illustrious use of high-pitch, low-tempo wave sounds, Arca finds a way to make them come across as more luminous and hard-hitting, despite turning into a project that occasionally camouflages into a small void of forgetfulness. Like ii and iii, there are moments you find yourself returning – after a few tracks – since what comes in and out after “Witch” is a myriad of tracks that feel like it’s missing the spark you got from listening to the first few tracks. It has an effervescent array of instrumental layering, primarily using varying levels of synths, whether elevated or elongated – this creates coalescing sounds, particularly from the electronic strings and pianos that underline the synths. But as it goes along, issues derive from Arca letting her musical fluidity control the second half of KiCk iiii

Unfortunately, the only drawback from the expressive performances and production is that some tend to fall flat with meaning, like “Alien Inside,” featuring Shirley Manson, lead-vocalist of Garbage. The more it sits with you, the more it creates arguments in your head about whether or not you like the intimate and tempered sounds. “Alien Inside” is focused more on the message that the production appears to get lost as it tries to find the synergy. And like “Alien Inside,” “Witch” feels like they lack a proper identity reflecting the intimacy of the album. And as the latter stands firm, the former comes across abrasive, comparatively, despite meaning flowing with synergy. It isn’t like KiCk iiiii, as it stays direct on a path that never takes a detour, and instead, it adds depth slowly. 

Most of the fourth KiCk is keen on making the synths a central focus as Arca delves into new sounds, akin to the second and the fifth volume. Like I’ve mentioned in my review of the third volume, Arca took a step back – she was keen on recreating what worked in the first two that lacked comprehension of its identity. Though she pivots to working with new sounds – and more frequently – it shows her having an identity – on a path over 80% of the time. That 80% may be hyperbolic, as it speaks internally to the tracks and how they keep themselves aligned amongst the tracklist. KiCk iiiii is the most consistent, compared to the others, but it may not be one’s cup of tea. As I’ve mentioned prior, it transitions into quietness, and that quietness lets the project explore depths that seep into your core, as the classical strings create monstrous and everlasting impressions in your mind.

KiCk iiiii is timid and yet, along with the second, delivers that memorable impact that has me wanting to return. The delicate nature of the classical arrangements as they become the focal point – think songs “Estrogen” and “Ether” – they have a twinkle, a desire to extend their foundation. It shows in the transitions, like when the glitchy-ambient-pragmatic “Músculos” goes into “La Infinita,” as a way to temper and express duality. But that’s what has been part of the themes Arca inflects with her songwriting. She is free, and she is wild. She feels and senses the absence of love, as well as lapses of loneliness. And Arca can inflect with understanding levels of connectivity, where even the mildest song where she tells us we’re diamonds speaks louder since the production mirrors the honesty. It also speaks to the way she intertwines the separate styles in one song – in terms of duality. “Firestarter,” for example, bridges the fine line of classical and ambient-electronica, as the effects and tempos make their presence known. After an electronic-focused 2/3s, Arca expresses the synergy that comes from the transitions – it’s the case with the tracks that close iiiii.

Arca’s KiCk series has been a whirlwind experience, containing different variations of music where Arca steps into some unknown territories. But the final two sees Arca flourishing at the utmost top quality. It left an impact than the third album, and stays lodged in my mind as this larger-than-life project that works on its own and as a collective 5-Part binge.

Arca – KiCk iii: Review

On the second day of December, Santa Arca gave us: volume 3 of the KiCk series. 

Okay, I know that didn’t have proper rhythm, and frankly, it resembles the stagnant and slightly forgettable nature of volume 3 of KiCk by Arca. It isn’t to say that it is an empty void that feels like a stoppage gap between 1 & 2 and 4 & 5. But it isn’t as vibrant as the former. Arca is diving back to her old self with outlandish and spectacular chaos; unfortunately, it never feels as refreshing as 2, considering this new foray into a hybrid of reggaeton, cumbia, electronic, and techno. Here, Arca is diluting the new – leaving it as a subtle presence through her rhythms – becoming retroactively keen on the old as the essence of noise and deconstructed dance breathes over most of the album. KiCk iii is a step back for Arca, showing some growth with her instrumentals – it is forgettable, only containing a few songs of note.

Unlike KiCk ii, KiCk iii didn’t hit me with the same feeling, and instead, I kept wondering if I was stuck on one cohesive loop since the songs mesh into mild redundancy. Most of these songs work, but instead of finding glee in returning, you’ll want to figure out what works for you. Fortunately, it never feels like a chore as Arca stays inventive. After a semi-lackluster start, it becomes more consistent. “Bruja” comes and goes, meshing into “Incendia,” which is a solid track on its own. It emboldens dance music overtones in the instrumental, creating a blazing rhythm – it will have you up on two feet quickly. The energy and keen attention to detail when layering the danceability base with jabs of noise add fuel to some highlights. It is especially the case with some songs mid-way through the album.

From “Fiera” to parts of “Ripple,” Arca reeled me with glamorous musical production, though it’s hidden with the excess of noise overtones that sometimes work and sometimes sound redundant. It doesn’t work on “Fiera,” but it does on the following track, “Skullqueen.” It’s because it isn’t a repetition of the same frequencies. It’s a blend of slow-tempo and fast-tempo pitches and in many ways reminiscent of glitch-hop. The noise continues to elevate and dissipate, dependent on its usage; for example, aspects of “Ripple” tend to remain entrenched in a mood instead of a song with unique patterns, like the songs that follow.

“Electra Rex” and “Señorita” come to mind swiftly. “Electra Rex” sees Arca returning to rapping with this noise-infused banger that continues to explore themes from the last KiCk while expressing itself with grace and beauty. With “Electra Rex,” Arca subverts the story of Oedipus Rex and reworks the ending to create a visceral tale about self-love and identity – Arca creates Electra as this person that fights the complexities of identity, especially in gender. In an Instagram post about the song, Arca said, “Electra Rex is the union of masculine and feminine. It kills both mother and father and has sex with itself. The hermetic androgyne is recognition of both the ancestral and futuristic, a merger possible because of the similarities.” She focuses on creating these songs that breathe life into a community that expresses a feeling for a future with no constraints.

“Señorita” continues to exhume that veracity – Arca raps-sings with an aggressive tone as she flexes her confidence, using analogies involving sex and references to a past song: “Non-Binary,” from the first album. The production/instrumental does a great job of balancing the intensity of the percussion and noise before leaning into a softer outro. It then hits you with the incoherent mess “My 2,” but what Arca finishes the album with is a strong point I want to highlight. When the KiCk iii comes to a close, Arca shifts the production from being noise-centric to incorporating more intimate orchestrations like the classical on strings on the final two tracks – more specifically, “Joya.” The title translates to jewel in English, and the way the production uses a somber glitch-overlay that synchronizes beautifully with the strings as it emboldens Arca’s message to the listeners that we are one; we are all jewels. It’s a monstrous and warming ending that boasts these feelings of understanding and growth relative to you.

KiCk iii is a slight step back, though it isn’t all bad. Arca still has a lot that works and stuff that doesn’t. But the way she intricately creates great noise-glitch hybrids adds a different complexion to the album and decent follow-up to ii. Unfortunately, I’ll see myself returning more to i and ii before iii.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Arca – KiCk ii: Review

Arca can evolve as an artist and can grow as a person. But no matter what she delivers, Arca still retains a few quirks that make her, her – now, it’s this unique pitch, aligning with her flows, that builds an expressive hype, and the way she has implemented it in her music has been a strong component of her artistry. It became more noticeable when a few songs on her new LP mirrored the intensity of songs like “Rip the Slit” on KiCk i. It has become more apparent the more Arca grew and created albums of varying degrees, sonically. With 2020’s KiCk i, Arca lets her inner Latina breath; she meshes gritty-dynamic electronic textures with predominately Spanish lyrics. She continues to do so on KiCk ii, exploring different sounds and immersing in her Latin roots more by tweaking with genres that she grew up around.

Listening to KiCk ii for the first time threw me for a spin. After some time, you start to gain sensibilities for what an artist may deliver, but Arca disproves that notion – she gives us a project where the nuances shift in the direction of reggaeton, aligning more with her cultural roots. It’s different, and it doesn’t get held back as electronic sound glimmers on the surface. After a modestly typical opening track by Arca, a gut-punch hits you and spins you around till you land flat on your face. “Prada” and “Rakata” come in as these larger-than-life productions that beautifully complement Arca’s melodies with vocal modifiers. Arca weaves a percussion style more prominent in reggaeton and shifts the outer grooves to align with them – “Rakata,” for example, has these electronic overtones that reflect the shifting style of reggaeton. The electronic complexion begins to seep out a little as the album progresses; Arca steps up to the plate to remind us she isn’t changing, just evolving.

You start to get a sense of Arca’s development through the varying directions she takes a song’s core, like on “Luna Llena,” which includes production from hip-hop producers, WondaGurl, Jenius, and CuBeatz bringing a smooth hip-hop beat underneath toned down synths. “Luna Llena” sees Arca creating parallels between her transition as an artist and as a person – mentally and physically. She uses the full moon as a tongue-in-cheek-satirical analogy, considering the duality in opinion from the outside world. 

Arca writes into existence moods and feelings that bloom into these realized stories and indications about her conflictions that disavow her from feeling free. The previously mentioned “Rakata” – synonymously known as a term in reggaeton, meaning atacar or attack – speaks true to its meaning as she attacks the theme of sexual freedom with ferocity. The production is crisp and stays true to its concept with no bump on the road. But for what Arca delivers, she stays on point and head-on.

Arca’s derelict attention to detail gives us fluid soundscapes and songwriting. It’s no surprise since previous works benefited from Arca’s intuitiveness to create while never waning thin on a concept. And through the sheer force and gravitas within her eerie vocals and intensifying production may sometimes make the words inaudible, but repeating them adds to themes like sexuality and expressionism. But songs like “Muñecas” and “Lethargy” embolden the surface layer of the song titles by constructing the layers of bass and high-tempo grinding-synths, all without adding anything interesting. These songs, along with “Araña,” bridge past the reggaeton landscape, maintaining few nuances but engulfing themselves into the electrosphere. Though, the former tend to have more of a dynamic punch than the latter. However, when Arca finds herself becoming more in tune with the electronic genre, it becomes a bit of an overabundance of cathartic sounds. “Femme” and “Muñecas” lose themselves in a graff of slight redundancy. 

It picks back up with “Confianza,” a happy medium between the two genres/sounds as Arca gets back on two feet. It’s quick-winded by a slight snooze on “Born Yesterday,” which includes guest vocals by Sia. The two have created quality music in the past, but after some time, one can sense what sounds like a typical electro-pop Sia song, and it’s difficult to escape the thought when it hits you. But it ends on an eloquent note with “Andro,” a beautifully soft instrumental (comparatively), which is all you can ask for in an album.

KiCk ii isn’t as much of a roller coaster ride and instead runs through with steady consistency. Fortunately, there is a lot to take from KiCk ii, like her vibrant and confident self. If “Non-Binary” on KiCk i didn’t start to stir the pot for you, then KiCk ii brings it to a boil. There is a ferocity to Arca’s artistry, and she delivers with transparency. The excitement lingers as two more volumes get their release and the musical evolution of Arca grows and grows.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.