Over the past 60 years many artists have tried to capture the sound of the future, with varying degrees of success. Never forget that for every Kraftwerk there is a Babylon Zoo. Arca though has spent pretty much the last decade crafting a majestically forward-facing sound that has pulled everyone from Kanye West and FKA Twigs to Bjork into her world, hungry not just for underground kudos by association but to deliver a sound unlike any other.
Album number four, KiCk i is the Venezulan-born producer and performer’s first significant attempt at morphing from cult icon into a mainstream talent as big as any of her A-list collaborators. But rather than tone down her sound – which at turns can be confounding and dissonant – she doubles down on what makes her quite so individual. The first in a series of four planned releases, ‘KiCk i’ isn’t about making concessions. Though nowhere near as confrontational as releasing a 62 minute long song – which Arca did in February of this year – it’s a playful, pan-global rebel yell, its title a reference to both the first kick inside of a foetus in utero and a person’s own kick for individuality. It’s also a sonic kick too, thwacking itself up against your eardrums, throbbing and pulsing with intensity.
Opener ‘Nonbinary’ – one of the few tracks sung in English – is as fierce as it is fun and filthy. “It’s French tips wrapped round a dick/Do you want a taste?/I don’t give a fuck what you think/You don’t know me/You might owe me/But, bitch, you’ll never know me,” sings Arca – who came out as nonbinary in 2018 and has openly discussed her transition and keenness to celebrate “gender euphoria” rather than “gender dysphoria” – over clattering, pulsing electronics. The song jolts into the dreamy ‘Time’, which, alongside the meditative chanting of ‘Calor’ and angelic ‘No Queda Nada’ proves that Arca can do delicate, it’s just that the glitchy likes of ‘Mequetrefe’ and unsettling gunshots and melodic mayhem of ‘Riquiqui’ seems that much more satisfying. Even seemingly straight-up pop belter ‘Machote’ can’t be without a handful of sonic explosions at its climax.
When it comes to friends in high places, Arca’s still got them. Old mate Bjork appears on the mesmeric ‘Afterwards’ – which though only four minutes is still the second longest track here – while Rosalia adds to ‘KLK’’s shimmering reggaetón bounce and SOPHIE helps to make ‘La Chiqui’ as mind-bending as possible. “I don’t want to be tied to one genre,” Arca recently explained. “I don’t want to be labeled as one thing.” With ‘KiCk i’, there’s absolutely no chance of that happening.