Beautiful Estrangement: The Music of Arca

Arca’s profile is strange and eclectic: Although featured on albums by Kanye West and Björk, the Venezuelan producer’s solo work lives mostly in the shadows, existing as cult favorites of electronic musicians and intellectuals. His expressionist, synth-based tracks stream into the headphones of people in cafés and living rooms, studied like Johnny Marr studied Marc Bolan; a frequent thought of listeners might be: “How does he do it?”

“Vanity,” from 2015’s Mutant, opens with the sounds of profoundly distorted mallet percussions echoing into magnetic eternity, which are quickly usurped by a bassline so smooth and boundless it spills beautifully into the rest of the mix. “Anoche,” which will appear on his self-titled record due April 7, brilliantly doubles detuned synth notes on top of one another as meticulous percussion enters and exists with free will. The lyrics are pure romantic splendor and despair.

Of course, Kanye West’s Yeezus, from 2013, must be mentioned here, as the record benefits from not one but four tracks produced by Arca. “Hold My Liquor” and “Blood on the Leaves” are arguably the two most reflective and emotionally explosive tracks on the album: The former centers around a pristine, slow-burning synth pulse, while the latter features spectacularly placed samples and monolithic bass. Arca’s work on “Meditation” by Babyfather (a.k.a. Dean Blunt) feels more vintage and laidback, like a modern Ghostface Killah beat, while FKA twigs’ “Lights On” is a dissonant, palpitating seduction.

If the trajectory of his previous works are any indication, Arca’s self-titled record could go down as his masterpiece. Brace yourself for it with this playlist of tracks spanning his luminous career.