Alongside the likes of Gessafelstein and Hudson Mohawke, Venezuelan producer Arca is one of several underground heroes who found themselves thrust into the spotlight following their contributions to Kanye West’s opus Yeezus back in 2013. However, the 25-year-old’s second studio effort, Mutant, indicates once again that he has no inclination to move any further towards the mainstream.
Indeed, as with last year’s equally punishing Xen, the artist formerly known as Alejandro Ghersi has recorded an album so challenging that it makes his work with the egomaniacal rapper sound about as edgy as a collaboration between Pitbull and Flo Rida.
Apparently named in honor of Arca’s regular graphic artist collaborator Jesse ‘Mutant’ Kande, this 20-track instrumental collection offers little in the way of melodies, hooks or structure, and instead weaves a tapestry of utterly warped noises that serve as more of a test of an endurance than a conventional album.
The title track is a seven-minute wave of stop-start sound effects so unsettling it could give you nightmares for weeks; the baffling “Umbilical” combines African chants with jackhammer synths and what appears to be the buzzing of a particularly angry wasp; while the wailing elephant finale of “Hymn,” the distorted fairground ride soundtrack of “Sever” and the eerie ghostly vocals of “Sinner” also help add to the overall sense of disorientation.
Occasionally Arca, who has also recently helped to shape albums by FKA twigs, Björk and Kelela, provides some much-needed relief from all the jarring, as on the sweeping chimes of “Extent,” and the surprisingly twinkling “Front Load” (the latter perhaps the only time that his music could ever be described as meditative). But it’s these moments which also prove that Arca’s shape-shifting sound works better when accompanied by an equally fearless female vocalist.
Mutant, therefore, ensures that Arca is unlikely to face any sell-out accusations any time soon, and it would no doubt serve as a fitting soundtrack to an unhinged indie horror, but even the most hardened of noise enthusiasts will find it tough going in one sitting.