Arca Talks Working With Bjork, Screaming About Sex, Explosive New LP
If the avant-garde pop movement of the past few years has a mastermind, it just might be Arca. The 26-year-old Alejandro Ghersi, Venezuela-born and NYC-educated, has helped to widen the sonic parameters of the mainstream via a series of high-profile studio positions: consulting on Kanye West‘s super-album Yeezus, co-producing on the debut of British singer FKA Twigs and collaborating with Björk on her January release, Vulnicura.
Just a year after his debut LP, Xen, made countless best-of lists, Arca’s follow-up, Mutant, out November 20th from Mute Records, supplies more extraordinary selections of industrial noise, dub, glitch hop, IDM/ambient and unadulterated space exotica. For Ghersi, Mutant represents a growing process from the days of Xen. “I had found a particular set of characteristics …[that] make up a kind of sonic identity a lot of my tracks have in common,” he says. “Instead of making a track that was purely melodic or purely rhythmic, now it was a song that had a rhythm and melody. I feel like there was a sharp divide between a few different sides of me and that has been bridged.”
During a rare in-person interview, Ghersi discussed numerous topics with Rolling Stone, from the inspirations behind his new album to the changing perceptions of machismo in hip-hop culture, and those now-legendary collaborations with Björk and Kanye.
Tell me a little about how Mutant is different from Xen.
Xen to me was a necessary excursion inward, into myself. Mutant is a response to it and is more extroverted. I’m already completely prepared for people who didn’t understand Xen to understand or like Mutant and [vice versa]. And I feel like they’re equally important in the giant cauldron of what I’m trying to express. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way for me to grow is in a very self-forgiving way, to take a risk, and in response to how a record pans out, take a risk in the opposite charge. I know it sounds very philosophical, but thinking about such a loaded concept of truth in that way, there’s a humility in thinking about it like that, it feels right to me. So if Xen is a negative charge, then Mutant must be a positive charge.
Your visual collaborator Jesse Kanda’s album art and videos of the creature in Xen were such a big part of that album’s presentation. Is this shift you’re discussing reflected in the visuals of Mutant?
In Xen you kind of see [the figure’s] body, and the head is not really part of the image. In Mutant, it’s like a beam looking right at you in the eye. I think that’s a big part of the record’s theme — this idea of eye contact and directness and vulnerability in a very different way. It isn’t about showing your weak spots but rather harnessing the weak spots into an explosive and fertile energy. It doesn’t just point towards fragility, but actually ricochets out of fragility into bravery. I think [Mutant] has more low end and more bass because of that. There was no gravity to Xen. It was like exploring the inside of myself and there was no gravity in there. But Mutant is more related to the real world, like an interrelation between me and other beings, you know.