When it comes to music from contemporary openly queer artists, there are roughly two camps. There are the 'mainstreamers', who mostly emphasize the universality of desire (whether queer or straight, sometimes avoiding specificity by omitting gendered pronouns) in radio-friendly sonic packages: Kadie Elder, Troye Sivan, Tegan and Sara and Shura readily come to mind. And then there are artists like Perfume Genius and Arca, whose ouevres mostly foreground the 'otherness' of queer lived experiences by incorporating more outre and unusual sonic flourishes.
With the recent release of his third self-titled album, Arca (Alejandro Ghersi), a London-via-NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music-via-Caracas electronic producer, songwriter, mixing engineer and DJ who has worked with Kanye West, FKA Twigs and Björk, pushes the limits of meaning-making that can be contained within a three to four minute track. His previous body of instrumental work, immediately characterized by deconstructed song structures, were avant garde labyrinths of chaos and baroque synthetic sounds, visually accompanied by the grostesque humanoid bodies he made with regular collaborator Jesse Kanda.
"Reverie" is a great introduction to Arca's latest sonic reinvention, which now heavily features his vocals and Spanish lyrics. His own body, clad in a decidedly androgynous fashion with the assistance of a matador’s bolero jacke, assless chaps and prosthetic hooves, now represents his new aesthetic: intimate and radically vulnerable, backed by a sonic template that comes across as an unheavenly cross-fertilisation between the cathedral and an underground club scene. The song's lyrics were taken directly from famed Venezuelan artist Simón Díaz’s “Caballo Viejo,” one of the country’s most important folk songs:
'Cuando el amor llega así de esta manera (When love comes this way) El carutal reverdece (The carutal reappears)
No sabe nada (He knows nothing) Cuando el amor llega así (When love comes) De esta manera (in this way) No no no no no no no no no (No no no no no no no no no) No sabe nada (He knows nothing) Ámame otra vez (Love me again) Si te atreves (if you dare) Ámame otra vez (Love me again) Si te atreves (If you dare) Ámame otra vez (Love me again)
Even without any fluency in Spanish, the listener can detect the unsettling melancholy in Arca's vocals and the disturbing feeling of persecution that the song's instrumentation evokes. Its frantic beats and operatic vocals build up into a crescendo of chaotic fear, which is visually represented in the music video by Arca's groin being pierced by large and black phallic object - followed by the revelation that he is bleeding from the anus. The abstraction that characterized his previous work is now replaced by Ghersi's own flesh, blood and voice - signalling a keener willingness to excavate the complexities of his own sexual, cultural and personal identity.