Science fiction promised us close encounters of the third kind. Electro music is the only medium to have kept this promise and Venezuelan producer Arca is our favourite alien. There was a before and an after to her choice of pseudonym. Of the before we know very little, except for a childhood split between Caracas and the United States where her father worked, her piano lessons, and an initial career as a teenager under the name Nuuro whose music was in an electro-pop vein influenced by the British synth wave of the 1980s. From 2005 to 2011, there were two albums, a few EPs, and that’s it.
Two years later with the birth of Arca’s first tracks and we can see what wasn’t working the first time around. Now in her twenties there was no longer any question of following a previously-used formula. Now the aim was to innovate and to surprise, even if it meant destabilising her audience. On her first EPs, Arca gives the impression of wanting to reinvent the musical structure of rap by tampering with it, slowing it down and pushing it into strange territory with tampered voices. This is how she’s now known – as someone who has broken away from the standard pop writing of verse and chorus, polished productions and radio broadcast formats. There is no longer any question of making an effort to try to fit into boxes: her capacity to fascinate and shake things up will be experienced at Arca’s pleasure.
Her musical transformation has been accompanied by the creation of a visual universe that owes as much to digital manipulation as to contemporary art. Arca plays with special effects and her own body in the manner of Aphex Twin. Her name attracts artists who also like to highlight their uniqueness. When Kanye West decided to embark on his most radical album, Yeezus, Arca was one of many collaborators, using her production skills on a total of five tracks and propelling the American rapper out of his comfort zone. British singer FKA Twigs and the American Kelela called on her services right from the start, while Icelandic star Björk had her co-produce most of her albums Vulnicura and Utopia.
At the same time Arca has been generous, releasing albums, EPs, mixtapes and DJ mixes, sometimes with pretty abstruse titles like "&&&&&" in 2013, “@@@@@”, a 62-minute single, and Riquiquí;Bronze-Instances(1-100) a remix album released in 2020, containing 100 variations of the same song...
From her base in Barcelona, this celestial being hasn’t forgotten her roots and sprinkles her tracks with rhythms and influences reminiscent of her native continent, giving her music a touch of warmth that compensates for the industrial coldness of the materials used to create it, making it both sensual and magical. If you had to sum up Arca? Mutant, like the title of her 2015 album. Nonbinary (Arca uses the pronouns she/her and it/its – tranlator’s note) like the opening track on KiCki. Quite simply, out of this world.