Arca KICK ii, KicK iii, kick iiii, kiCK iiiii XL Recordings
To call the sonic tapestry Alejandra Ghersi, a.k.a. Arca, has created in her latest anthology sprawling would be a gross understatement. The five-part follow-up to last year’s KiCK i is an origin story for a brave new world. Toss aside any preconceived notion of a record. Disregard any concern of quality over quantity. By recontextualising KiCK i – to quote the artist herself – as the proverbial “first natal KiCk” of a universe being born, the Venezuelan producer presents a powerful framework for what she’s dubbed a cycle. Here, Ghersi has positioned sound as an entry portal – a vehicle for transformation – rather than a final destination.
Ghersi’s sleek production takes every possible turn across the collection. Through old-school reggaeton chain rattles (Rakata), intellectual rave (Electra Rex), neo-tonadas (Luna Llena, a reimagining of legendary Venezuelan folk musician Simon Díaz), hushed monologues (In the Face), and even soaring hyperpop (the Sia-assisted Born Yesterday), listeners get a varied sampler of Ghersi’s experimental ear.
The visual imagery is just as rich. On the album covers and stellar video for KICK ii singles Prada/Rakata, she casts herself in the guise of myriad feminine deities: the Hindu mother goddess Durga, a two-headed winged demon swinging swords, a chrome cyborg-Sphinx brandishing a fishtail and a machine gun and, most notably, Venezuelan folk goddess María Lionza riding a tapir and holding up a skeletal pelvis in the middle of a glowing trans insignia.
The depths of Ghersi’s imagination is on full display, but if the radical theorising of María Lionza as a trans woman tells us anything, it’s that the KICK universe is firmly rooted in her heritage. Tiro is perhaps her most direct shout out to Venezuela, with Ghersi showcasing her vocal flow as she lists the many states of our country, and calls on “los gringos y los güeros pa’ que tiren su dinero” – which is to say: white people, check your privilege and open your wallets. The fluidity with which she flits between Spanish and English feels more than just a wholesale honouring of her cultural lineage – it’s an explicit challenge to an industry that has increasingly tokenised Latinx musicians over the years.
The 59-track project’s proposal is a bold one: set everything on fire (as she calls for on Incendio) and watch the ashes of empire give rise to a bright queer future, where genre doesn’t exist and neither do binaries or borders. Side-by-side with the first record, KICK ii, KicK iii, kick iiii and kiCK iiiii stitch together a fearless image of a new world order – and Arca is leading the charge.