ALBUM REVIEW: Arca, kick iiii
First off, I want to say sorry to @carti_xcx, who has been passionately posting about this record a lot, saying that it is the best KICK. I disagree, but let me explain. I think the genius of what Arca has done with this album cycle is to show her wide range of musical talent. Over the course of five albums (including KiCK i from last year), she has succeeded in the genres of reggaeton, noise, hip-hop, IDM, ambient, synth scoring, guitar balladry and avant-classical to varying degrees, and that’s a tough feat for a band to pull off, let alone one driving creative force. As a page that is open to all forms of artistic expression, I have been pretty keen to the majority of the 40ish songs Arca has drummed up for these four new records. However, due to the simplistic songwriting, heavy use of autotuned singing, and the mostly mild instrumentation presented on kick iiii, I sadly have to say, this is the runt of the litter.
That’s not to say that you should skip the record full stop. Even if I think this is kind of an experiment gone wrong, there are certain aspects of it that I find really unique and interesting. The ethereal, outer space sonics on a track like “Alien Inside” are something I’ve never quite heard from Arca before, imagine Angels and Airwaves but good. The lyrics about “The first time you recognized the alien inside. In the face of abject misery” further the theme of the cycle (if it’s oppressive, kick against it) with a new perspective. This identity that Arca has must’ve felt very alien at one point in time, with people likely not accepting it and treating her like an outsider. For her to come through as a “Xenomorphgirl” and fully embrace her true self is quite beautiful. She has used her fluidity to be sexy, to be a monster with two heads, and now to be this robotic creature on the front cover, surrounded by purple corpses. She is fully dominating a world all her own on iiii. They tried to alienate her, and now she has returned to abduct and destroy them.
Other highlights for me include the GothBoyClique-style guitar track “Boquifloja” which roughly translates to “gossip” or “loose lips”. Her dejected, femme vocal inflection reminds me a lot of the Ethel Cain Imbred EP that came out earlier this year. The singing is kind of flat, but that adds to the depressive quality of the track in my opinion. As I said earlier, the simplistic songwriting is on full display here as well, with her mostly just repeating the title over and over again. I can tolerate it on this song because I enjoy the mood it creates as well as the cacophonous piano outro. I feel roughly the same about, “Lost Woman Found”. Although Arca is mostly just saying “I’m looking for a miracle”, it is the otherworldly, spectacular synth production that truly grabs my attention and holds it there, and as it continues to get more arpeggiated and odd, I can almost begin to see the appeal of this record to the big fans of it. It has a very cinematic and obtuse quality to it that is far more experimental and avant-garde than most of ii or iii. “Paw” also closes the record off quite “nicely” (by Arca standards), if not disturbingly, lyrically diving into this owner-pet dynamic she has with her lover. Phrases like “Come here, be my dog” and “I can pet behind your ears boy” conjure the image of Arca with her mech-suit walking a little man around a dog park, making everyone uncomfortable. I can already see Ben Shapiro reacting to it and yelling “THIS IS THE FUTURE THAT LIBERALS WANT!!!”
This is a good record, but I can’t designate it as a “standout” in good conscience. Listening to it from front to back, honestly, just makes me wish that Oneohtrix Point Never was the executive producer. The crystalline, nearly New Age scapes that Arca weaves together on here remind me a lot of his more experimental work on records like Garden of Delete, and considering their history together, I think that would’ve been a no-brainer. Unfortunately, what we get instead is a brightly lit mess of sorts. Putting themes of abjection and acceptance aside for a moment (which are important don’t get me wrong), I really do not enjoy Arca just going “aaaAaaAaAaaaAaaAaaaA” and “OoooOoooOoOoO” over very mild electronic instrumentation throughout the majority of the runtime (ex: “Esuna”, “Hija”, “Altar”). It gets a little homogenous and uninteresting to my ears after a while, with the midsection being the worst offender of this weak stylistic choice. On shuffle, the record actually sounds a lot more varied, with heavenly rave hits on “Queer” standing out to me. Even on that track, the Planningtorock feature is awkwardly performed, and I feel about the same about No Bra on “Witch”. I am perfectly willing to accept that this is her 808s & Heartbreak, a record that was deeply misunderstood in 2008 and then widely copied by 2010. I just simply don’t have the taste for iiii because this is not the type of music or songwriting that sounds good to my ear, and as a 25-year old, my tastes are concretely set unfortunately, it’s science. I hope that our younger audience, or those more prone to experimentation fuck with this heavily, but it’s just not for me. Sorry.