‘Nonbinary’, the opening track on Arca’s fourth studio album ‘KiCk i’, is a delectable declaration of her new gender expression. This is the Venezeluan producer’s most accessible record yet, featuring superstar Björk and Spanish pop sensation Rosalía, but there are no signs of compromise here.
Having coming out as non-binary in 2018, Arca has since transitioned and ‘Nonbinary’ is a self-affirming infectious pop track with tongue-tying whispered lyrics – “it’s French tips wrapped around a dick” – while its saccharine third verse exemplifies her bold new self. With a memorable beat full of sporadic gunshots and hollowed-out syncopated drums, warped on loop, she concludes her most contentious and catchiest song to date with the lyrics: “What a treat / It is to be / Non-binary / Ma chérie / Tee-hee-hee / Bitch”.
Arca’s carefully controlled cacophonies stand on the fringes of dance music and pop, but ‘KiCk i’ feels more like an exploration of an internal landscape. Her three previous albums – ‘Xen’, ‘Mutant’, and ‘Arca’ – along with the 62-minute single ‘@@@@@‘ released earlier this year, have deservedly won her critical acclaim and a fervent fanbase. Her singular production incorporates unorthodox elements – abrasive percussion, high-pitched whines and screeches – while hinting at chords and convention, but turning away from normality at the last moment. This latest project, an audacious 12-track album, is a heightened version of her previous projects, now overlaid with a pop sheen.
On ‘KiCK i’, Arca probes the boundary between noise and pop with chaotic, rich, layered textures, which fuels her anthemic production. Splashes of her familiar sounds are evident throughout, but it also allows space for choruses alongside touches of trap, reggaeton and pop. On ‘Afterwards’, Arca creates an orchestral backdrop for Björk to whisper-sing in Spanish, implementing a meditative pause amidst the album’s turbulence, while Rosalía also hops on ‘KLK’ for a hyperkinetic, club-ready track.
It’s the first time Arca has collaborated with others on a solo album, and the aforementioned features, along with feted producer SOPHIE and London electronic artist Shygirl help to elevate the project, adding further colours to Arca’s world. Considering the range of genres incorporated in the album, it’s stunning that it never veers fully towards only one. Instead, ‘KiCk i’ incorporates pop, experimental, noise, electronica and psychedelia into one project. Amid a highly acclaimed career, Arca’s latest album presents a new high-water mark.
Release date: June 26
Record label: XL