Television’s Marquee Moon in 5 Minutes
This album began long before Alejandro Ghersi became Arca. In the nascent stages of his career, Ghersi made dreamy synth pop songs as a teenager in Venezuela under the name Nuuro. These love sketches, sung in Spanish and English, showcased an upbeat singing voice and brightly colored electronic landscapes redolent of Postal Service or Passion Pit. What he did as Nuuro and what he now does as Arca couldn’t seem any more different. Arca’s sound is one of chaos and contortions, further defined by the unsettling visuals of morphing bodies suspended in space he made with longtime collaborator Jesse Kanda. But when Ghersi debuted his newfound (or perhaps rediscovered) singing voice on Arca, it felt like a wormhole opened up—one that connected his prehistoric past to his visions of the distant future.
“Piel,” the first song Arca released from this album, felt shockingly new. He hums at first, intimating the cadence of a bedtime lullaby, easing a listener into the song. Then, seconds later, he sings towards the heavens, and acidic drips of distortion, bass, and chorus rumble in the background. The melody feels worn and romantic, and his voice slinks along to the beat like an old prayer. Finally, the music dissolves into a puddle of oozing beats and jumbled clanks. When you listen to “Piel,” there is no question you’re hearing an Arca song. And when you go searching for the answer to why that is, you keep digging into Ghersi’s timeline, trying to figure out how he could make something that feels so ancient and so otherworldly.
The 13-songs on Arca don’t represent an about-face for Ghersi, or even a reinvention. Rather, it imagines what would happen if he intermingled the music of his past (the pop songs he made, the Schumann and Mendelssohn he studied) with the radical noise and boundary-shattering pop he’s invented as Arca. Booming organs, mournful pianos, and classical instrumentation share space with a kaleidoscope of outré production. This juxtaposition is made even more clear by his voice, which proudly wears all of its imperfections: every cough, wheeze, and difficult breath is captured. That he’s…