utorak, 28. kolovoza 2012.

Arca - &&&&& (2013) + Stretch 1 & 2 (2012)

Arca &&&&& Mix EP Yeezus Producer UNO NYC
Otkrivanje apstrakcija u hip-hopu. Vađenje živaca iz tamne strane Mjeseca. Prozirna čudovišta koja izazivaju smijeh, tamno-zemljopisni smijeh kojeg se bojiš. Višestruki događaj.

In an old bio for Venezuela-born producer Arca, the young man's mother writes, "new forms tunes and notes transfers from the heart what is best even in the dissonance." As grammatically odd as the statement may be, the sentiment goes to the heart of what's great about the New York-based beatsmith's work, as heard most recently on Kanye West's monstrous new album Yeezus.
Born Alejandro Ghersi, he has a mercurial but consistently fascinating touch. His 2012 EPs Stretch 1 and Stretch 2 (released via UNO NYC) explored darkly sparkling sonic territories with an elastic touch, roping in chopped rap vocals, outlandish effects, and deeply dimensional texture. He now follows up his work on one of the most musically fascinated LPs of the year with &&&&&, a blacker but still oddly magical mix of original tracks that is thrilling for its entire 25-minute span.  - Chris Martins

New York label UNO NYC continues to promote its roster as a present vision of the future. The aesthetic has been labeled “post-internet,” “hyper-future,” and “night bus music,” not in an attempt to peddle trend-driven hype surrounding the artists who have released there, but to construct an umbrella mood for every release — this is what it’s going to feel like when you press play. Each term is a descriptor, alluding to a particular method for arranging bass, synth, and tone to create a feeling of progression, of achieving a sound that wasn’t possible in the past — not because the technology was unavailable, but because of shifting affiliations with corresponding industries. The music feeds into the lives of its listeners as social habits alter; they play into sound association, emphasize grit in development, speed, flexibility, portability, and a particular connection with urban expansion. Arca has played a large role in shaping that sonic environment by providing the integral spokes that held the UNO mood umbrella aloof, while this is his first outing for Hippos In Tanks. But that didn’t just come from dousing tropical synths with echo, distorting hip-hop vocals, and raising the bar in digital cover art; there was something far more assertive about this beat maker that shifted listener expectations entirely.
With each of his releases, Arca refines a sound that appeals to emotive instincts while bypassing inherently human components. This isn’t uncommon in experimental electronic music, but on &&&&&, the Venezuelan-born musician pulls his specific technique off with a kilter that’s incredibly distinct and even at odds with previous recordings. Categorization in this case goes little beyond the creative capacity of writers attempting to describe what they hear in searching for patterns. When established genre labels are adopted, the illusion of exposing music of the future is whittled away, and that makes relating to each sound in terms of what the listener feels so much simpler. Feeling lies at the very core of the artist’s latest mixtape; across the entirety of its 26 minutes, &&&&& has the potential to conjure an emotional frenzy that’s alluring to the senses in a way that so much electronic artistry fails to even approach.
Alejandro Ghersi, the man behind Arca, sparks a deeply emotional response through decoded combinations of electronic sound. Technically, it brings to mind Brian Eno’s work with Microsoft in the early 90s, only instead of creating a six-second corporate jingle designed to be “optimistic, sentimental and inspirational” etc., Arca spins an impassioned tapestry through a series of personalities that weave and scratch their way through the mix. The trick is being able to achieve this both with and without vocals, and by producing a combination of frequencies that push any desired futuristic mood to the outermost limits. Ghersi seems to accomplish this effortlessly; he was, after all, chosen to co-produce four tracks on Yeezus, not to mention his gig alongside Holly Herndon in support of Atoms For Peace — such opportunities came on the back of just two EPs and a mixtape for DIS, without even the slightest hint of a full-length album in the pipeline.
Although it exists as a single stream, &&&&& comprises 14 tacks that punch and crush their way through free-falling bass, Transylvanian keys, and metallic bullet-shell samples. Like a multifaceted 3D simulation of the double helix, “Knot” opens with gaping tones that launch into spiraling, crisp cut synths — it feels motivational, a sonic vessel for accomplishing even the most daunting of challenges, mirrored by the severity of a shuddering bass line. It’s an essential section in the opening half of the mix, which continues to embody futuristic dub qualities in the context of an intergalactic hip-hop beat tape. Arca’s stylistic preferences bring nothing new to the table, but the manner in which they have been approached gives them that feeling of whatever a term like “post-internet” might imply. Ghersi has spoken before about compiling cracked Sony drum samples to fashion his angle — found sound in the digital online junkyard — and his means of subverting traditional narratives such as a uniform Western romance go way back. But these methods remain etched into how he tackles dub flecked compositions with an abundant fascination for hip-hop aesthetics. As a standout fragment, “Anaesthetic” takes the tape into Stretch territory, with a rubberized synth that twists and creases its multiple vox loops. That first half compiles an incredibly hard hitting and wonderfully rich 12 minutes of Arca’s most captivating music to date, before the work is seized upon by an unexpected but equally gripping interjection.
At around the 12-minute mark on Arca’s SoundCloud version, listener comments appear to be further apart from one another. If this were a standardized indicator, it would demonstrate a great deal more appreciation for the bass-laden, hip-hop-heavy first side, which is severed by a beautiful piano key sequence entitled “Mother.” It’s a crazed cluttering of keys that segregates the mix into two distinct halves, the second of which is comparably enthralling but exemplifies an ambient palette. It kicks off with “Hallucinogen,” a downtempo beat parade of broken glass and cloudy synths; it’s a shift away from the emotive electronics, yet it subtly alters the pace of the release, which builds up steadily into a peak through the breathy tirade of “Pinch” and into the gigantic pulse of “DM True.” The latter track hints at the inclusion of Arca’s own mutant vocals; they don’t dominate &&&&& in the same way they have done in the past, but they do fall back on the vocabulary of physical action so that movement retains its presence as a presiding theme.
Like the wonderful Stretch 2 EP that came before it, &&&&& ends with an engaging instrumental piece that once again reaches back to ambient planes with a flickering heartbeat that carries the weight of blissful keys and glitches. The track relies heavily on repetition before fading away into the distance, so when it’s played as a prequel to “Knot,” it works perfectly as a looping sequence, with six seconds of silence dividing the gentler shades and the thundering bass drop. Only time will tell as to whether or not the angle will wear thin, but the complexity of these sounds and their ability to harness that emotional connection are what make this mix so strong. Despite the versatility of the music that’s on here, &&&&& remains compelling throughout its genre-spanning course. This might not be the sound of the future, but it’s an incredibly composed and cleverly mastered example of what can be achieved right now, and what could possibly be more uplifting than that? - Birkut

Arca - Stretch 2 image

Stretch 2 (2012)

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NYC's Arca presents the 2nd part to one of 2012's most beguiling R&B/electronic beat packs. 'Stretch 2' gives up nine of his uniquely scrunched and tucked constructions, accentuating and augmenting the contours of modern R&B with hyper-modern, electronic sculpturing techniques. Highlights here have to be the supremely synthetic slomp of '2 Blunted', the gutted, mutant soul styles of 'Strung', or the pensile 'Brokeup' which, repeats the trick of his 'Truly Carrying' killer in fine style, or the nexx world ambience of 'Meditation'. Highly recommended to fans of Total Freedom, Kingdom, Fatma Al Qadiri, y'all!  -boomkat

An abstract hentai seiyoku offshoot called shokushu goukan once began to sketch beasts in the place of men during domineering and often forceful sex scenes in Japanese animation. This unpredictable and often rather shocking artform ranged from 19th-century paintings of women copulating with octopuses to the 1986 breakthrough film Urotsukidōji, which saw the anime sub-genre gain popularity in the West. Monsters, mutants, and ogres, with their lashing, drooling, and hyper-violence, preyed upon petite college teens in savage displays that have been revisited in various forms through album art on more than one musical release this year, ranging from suicidal schoolgirls by Makoto Aida to anonymous low-def ultra-filth shokushu. These themes curdle wild cocktails of innocence, purity, and metaphysical desire with abstraction, abomination, and cruelty, as potentially enraging as entertaining.
Although Arca chooses not to adhere to these themes on the rather kinetic cover art of his outstanding Stretch releases, both records embody crystal-clear, seductive beats that are elasticated, shrink-wrapped, then curated to the point of abuse by transmuting vocals. These voices irrefutably dominate the bulk of each release, taking on audio forms of monsters and mutants who prey upon otherwise pristine rhythms skillfully commanded with nonchalant and shameless ease. This might come as a surprise if the artist were a stranger to flamboyant juxtapositions of the innocent or untarnished with the gruesome or even the sexual. However, the terrifying video for “Ass Swung Low,” taken from the prequel to Stretch 2, arranges video footage of children with morphed and synced gapes dropping alien rhymes that stretch from “I feel sick/ I fucked you/ Fuck you” to “Share my blood with somebody new/ Take the rest off, fuckin’ you” — lyrics that embrace not only lewd expletives, but also collocate adult matter with seeming innocence to collectively frightening, humorous, and sickening heights.
This notion, of a beastly form abusing an innocent victim, remains pertinent throughout the course of Stretch 2, the first UNO NYC release from this clandestine Venezuelan producer, and it results in a remarkable listen that’s constantly negotiating what constitutes fun and fear. This is what makes Arca both seductively dark and wonderfully playful; he is capable of producing delectable beats of the most sublime proclivity, encouraging the listener to engulf his dainty panache before pulling the music to pieces and deforming it with alien vocals. The affect is restraining but delightful, from the album’s first single and opening track “Self Defense” to the smoked-out, lubed-up mischief of “2 Blunted.” These are risky and obscure formulas being diced here, but a firm balance is struck across lines where displeasure is offset by entertainment, where it might be perceived in alternative spaces as de mauvais goût and consequently kicked to the proverbial curb.
Despite the virtually unabated presence of otherworldly figures, their eeriness and obscurity are most welcome; these perplexing impostors have a knack for embedding themselves neatly in the musical folds that they so fondly govern. Indeed, it is only towards the tail-end of the record when these demonic characters give way to the flawless beats that are forged throughout, which on closing track “Manners” blends soft vocal harmonies with delicate synths and gently-plucked kora strings that interrupt one singular sample, a young lady, cut in mid-sentence, “our band’s in this video too, though,” which, despite its purity in pitch and tone, rekindles terrifying images from the “Ass Swung Low” video. In spite of that, what the track alludes to is the incredibly adroit and imaginative compositions that piece the album together: “Manners” is bereft of the freakishly agreeable vocal bullying, which provides the confrontational inertia that keeps Arca so precariously nestled between the wretched and the immaculate, shedding light on the realization that, unlike shokushu, Stretch 2 is not entirely dominated by the depraved. - Birkut

Arca doesn't want to make you dance. He'd rather watch you squirm, which is precisely what his contorted, writhing beats do. He's an artist that sounds distinctly uncomfortable in his own skin, every sound coming out in a warped, hellish gasp. At some level he's a hip-hop producer, but his shapeshifting illusions occasionally assume the forms of something resembling garage. Stretch 2 is his second effort for UNO NYC (home to the similarly ghoulish Gobby) and though it contains nothing as creepy as the first Stretch's "Ass Swung Low" (which recalled Aphex Twin's "Come to Daddy" with its deeply disturbing aural and visual content), it's a much more confident release that turns his blackened world of sound from impenetrable to frighteningly immersive. Opener "Self Defense" is a good harbinger for what you're getting yourself into. What sounds like a mangled didgeridoo is formed into a dissolving chord structure assaulted by lagging breakbeats, as Arca's pitched-down murmurs chatter below. And of course, the whole thing momentarily dissolves into a frantic clatter, as if Arca's grabbing the track by the sides and shaking it furiously. The silty time-delay rhythms and uncomfortable swing arcs that are the blueprint of much of Stretch 2 recall early Downliners Sekt plunged in prehistoric mud and a healthy dollop of existential angst. What are presumably his own vocals are peppered throughout the record, sometimes (unsettlingly) legible but more often spitting out hissing hymns to god-knows-what. Arca's music is fueled by tension more than anything else—it's the way the whispering winds sweep piercingly through the lurch of "Tapped In" that makes it so eerie, rather than the sounds themselves. Though his playful hip-hop vignettes are nice little curios, the album's real eye-openers are when he stretches out, and mostly come after the album's sent you through its hall of mirrors of mainstream rap appropriation. There's a hint of it on "Strung," where an uplifting, pseudo-gospel melody is suppressed and sent through the underbelly of the track, a glimpse of colour in a world defined entirely by black. But it's "Brokeup" where things really get interesting—a mutated rave synth (think Lone) blurts and distorts all over the track, like it's losing blood with each gasp before its subsumed entirely into "Meditation," Arca's most beautifully tortured production. Here, he uses delay and harsh panning effects to create a track in bleary double-vision, breathtaking in its drama yet never quite focused enough to harbour anything more than creepy ambiguity. It's finished off with the slightly sunnier New Age tones of "Manners," like Teebs having a bad day. These moments of strange, abject prettiness come late in an album whose sole goal seems to be to engender discomfort, a mutable aesthetic that can prove flimsy as often as it can impress. Above all, though, Stretch 2 is a mood record, unforgivingly dark and antisocial.- Andrew Ryce

All it takes is one viewing of the digitally altered, living photographs of scowling babies in the creepy and hilarious video for "Ass Swung Low" to know that Arca's world is a twisted one. In his well-deserved and swift ascent to cult dancefloor hero in NYC, he's welcomed us into a space that's dark but not evil, deranged for strange ends rather than destructive ones. Regardless of the poison you choose, the prevalent vibe of his Stretch EP series' screwy, shifty take on trip hop will leave you with that alternately scary and exciting feeling of being a little too far down the rabbit hole: monsters make you laugh and smiles make you nervous. Stretch 2, in particular, is a landmark for the promising young gun; his same off-beat humor, groovy dusk-time bass quakes, and liberally paced rhythms have evolved far beyond our already high expectations since his arrival on the UNO NYC roster.
 The refined structuring and increased confidence is palpable right from the buoyant lead track and recent single, "Self Defense"-- by the ending commands to give it up and bounce, you'll have been fluttering on that same tip for a bit. Though dark, gritty, and grinding are adjectives frequently employed to describe Arca's style, it's a high-energy burst that comes off like an announcement on the red carpet rather than from the dirges of the underground. Immediately after, he goes in a totally untraceable route by comparison with the abstract time warp of Clipse-sampling album highlight "Fortune." A lot of Arca's calling cards make their due appearances throughout the whole EP-- the multi-voice rap pitch-shifts, the digi-distorted grit of the bass and percussion, strange turns of shuffled meter-- but the drunken, off-the-grid pulse of "Fortune" marks a weirder, more creative use of those resources than ever before. The creepy mumble-rap of "2 Blunted," high-end skulk n' soar of "Tapped In," and electronic free jazz mind-fuck of "Strung" follow in that same vein, essentially extending (stretching?? get it??) the same principles that made "Ass Swung Low" stand out from the bulk of Stretch 1. - ad hoc

Arca - Stretch 1 image

Stretch 1 (2012)

Superb debut play from NYC's Arca for his home city's UNO imprint. With considerable appreciation for simulated hyper-space and holo'ed-out Hip Hop aesthetics, 'Stretch 1' is one was of the weirdest, most compelling contributions to that post-it-all Pop/R&B nexus also inhabited by Physical Therapy, Evian Christ, Fatima Al Qadiri, Kingdom, Holy Other an' all. Sampled classics from Blackstreet to Timbaland and Baby Dee lend ghostly traces of emotion to his brittle, bedroom-baroque inversions, and like the best of the aforementioned artists, he applies a wry reconfiguration of intent and context that's pushing the rightest buttons right about now. Really feeling this. - boomkat

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