His genre-defying work with FKA twigs and Kanye may have hinted at his powers, but it’s his uncompromising solo work and upcoming collaboration with Björk which has made Arca – AKA Venezuela-born Alejandro Ghersi – the highest-ranked musician on the Dazed 100. And to celebrate, here he exclusively shares a creepy, broken-down cover of Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie”.
Much like this new track, Arca’s debut album Xen is ucertain and frightening but overflowing with possibility, darkly reflecting the realities of our modern world. According to the 24-year-old producer, it’s all about “expansion and contraction” – a cryptic reference, perhaps, to the industrial, broken beats that underpin the swirling layers of synths and delicate, dancing melodies on the record.
It’s this fragility and rhythmic otherness that captured the attention of Björk, who invited Arca over to Iceland to co-produce her ninth studio album. The experience left an indelible impression. “I was able to spend time with someone who not only shaped the way I listen to music, but who is never, ever tempted to compromise,” he says. “I didn’t know it was possible to get away with it – physically, tangibly – until I spent time with someone who actually existed in that way. The way she is as a human is a big influence on the way I exist as a human.”
Throughout her career, Björk has championed the latest voices from the electronic underground and catapulted them into mainstream consciousness. Just as her late, longtime collaborator Mark Bell of LFO pioneered new sounds at the turn of the 90s, Arca is reinventing the sonic palette of electronica a quarter of a century later, working with flatmate and video wizard Jesse Kanda to bring his dark, twisted fantasies kicking and screaming to life. It was Kanda who created the monstrous, pan-gender avatar of Xen that appears on the album artwork and as a demonic stripper in lead video “Thievery”. “I have no idea what Xen would sound like without Jesse,” he says. “It would be like being born without an arm.”
Part of Xen’s paradoxical allure is its ability to conjure total heartbreak and all-encompassing love seemingly at once, a quality Arca says is a common thread linking all of his work. “I’ve never written a happy love song,” he says. “I exist in agreement with all the weird chaos, destruction and agony that is undoubtedly part of the texture of being alive. Being knee-deep in sadness or suffering and refusing to look down, to me that represents something more powerful than someone who’s never gone through difficulty. That is something which is at the heart of the music I make, and that’s what informs my wanting to fuck with people or wanting to make them feel uncomfortable.”
Intelligent, impassioned and inspired by integrity, Arca’s continued growth as an artist promises to be one of the most exciting journeys of the coming years. The musician has no plans to stop either, telling us in no uncertain terms: “I want to make music until I die.”
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