When listening to Arca’s latest album, it’s easy to feel trampled by a shroud of intricately chaotic shards of metal and plastic. The songs bounce between unrelentingly twisted production and cascading sheets of synth. The lyrics maneuver through two languages, Spanish and English, and the genres simultaneously take hold of hyper-pop-inspired industrial club and reggaeton. It sounds like the artist threw everything that inspired her in a blender then used the resulting mixture to arrange alien pop music from the future. The final product is memorable, addictive, and almost perfect.
KiCk i is Arca’s most stylistically approachable project to date, but she doesn’t shy away from the wonderfully eccentric sounds of her previous work. The project’s closer, “No Queda Nada,” continues the minimally operatic and ambient palette of her 2017 self-titled album but with added complexity in the form of rattling (which is perhaps the sound of a can of spray paint being shaken). “La Chíqui,” which features collaborative production from SOPHIE, is utterly chaotic in the best way possible. SOPHIE’s relaxed and somewhat apathetic vocals are contrasted by volcanic instrumentals and jittery production that forces Arca to frantically repeat “menéalo.” On this track and others, Arca approaches vocals like inhuman instruments, pushing them to fit her purpose rather than letting them dance atop her production. The resulting songs feel artificially human, the story in their lyrics organic yet manufactured.
“Nonbinary,” the opener, introduces us to an Arca who is less sorrowful–at least in musical tone–than on previous projects. The sing-speaking she employs on the first track is confrontational as she enjoys not giving “a fuck what you think.” “What a treat it is to be nonbinary,” she says, basking in one of her many “states.” This idea of “states” of being is explored throughout the project, with Arca at one point giving the listener and herself permission to enjoy a state of relaxation on “Time.” “I…think it’s about self-care, running that bubble bath as long as you want,” she told Apple Music, “I was literally channeling the gayest part of me [when I wrote ‘Time,’] which I know sounds like something confusing to hear a trans woman say, but it shouldn’t be.” That statement captures the freedom with which Arca moves between sounds and ideas on KiCk i. The album could be concisely defined as industrial, avant-pop, but it’s so much more. KiCk i is unafraid, and in fact embraces, an existence that disregards divisions of genres and concepts.
Though each track could be described as a unique expression of a “state,” Arca skillfully ties KiCk i together with stylistic cohesion. On “Riquiqui,” where the lyrics are intentionally idiosyncratic as they dash through flickers of deconstructed club, we hear a shouted outro reminiscent of the opener’s aggression. On “Calor,” where the artist vulnerably lets herself fall in love with partner Carlos Sáez, the body of production and instrumentals foreshadows the relatively minimal, less abrasive closer. The project is complex and multifaceted, but nearly every element is provided a well-crafted seat thanks to Arca’s attention to detail.
KiCk i manages to succeed on almost every level. Its flaws are sparse and if mentioned almost sounds like nitpicking. “Afterwards” features Björk and sounds too much like the Icelandic singer’s work to fit snuggly in the tracklist, but it’s still an excellent song. Other entries that fade out too soon are saved by Arca’s impeccable production and undeniable catchy-ness. The project is a futuristic, hyperactive, and a glistening success. One can only hope the artist’s next album will be just as good and arrive quickly.