KEXP is counting down the best records of the year with our annual Top 90.3 Countdown. Ahead of the countdown, KEXP staff make the case for some of their favorite albums from 2021. Make sure to vote for your favorites by December 10 at 6 PM PT and tune in to hear what makes the list on December 17.
You can also listen to an audio version of this story that aired on Sound & Vision below.
Personally, I don’t think I'm ready to talk about kick yet, but who would be? Most of us are still riding one of the several chaotic waves that Alejandra Ghersi, known among the mutants of this musical land as ARCA, subjected us to without warning.
Every time I’ve played kick i since it came out in 2020, I automatically find something new in that stormy portal of songs – a new sound, a chorus that broke the peace, a beat that I couldn’t forget.So, the fact that there are not one but four more pieces of this cyborg ode that I don't fully understand, minimally, I felt like my brain was fried. But the process was the same exploratory, disturbing, and fascinating experience for the rest of the five elements created by the Barcelona-based Venezuelan producer and composer.
"Don't put your shit on me," Arca would answer me as a terrifying echo from "Nonbinary", track number one of that memorable kick i, and she would be right. Although that song is a "simple" preamble compared to everything else the rest of the volumes of this work contain.
When she released kick i, I threw myself unscrupulously into her art and the discomfort it generated in me. why I threw myself unscrupulously into her art and the discomfort it generated in me. I needed to understand where that chilling connection came from and why I felt in an already familiar nightmare when she played her songs or when she released the 100 remixed versions of "Riquiquí" or the track "@@@@@" a 62-minute song that same year. To think that I used to say I was a witness to her most avant-garde creation. Well, no. Alejandra Ghersi proved I was wrong by releasing on the same week FOUR more volumes of kick and sent us all into hyperventilation.
Each listen is a different experience, but it was that first release already mentioned that served as a gateway for Ghersi to invited us to a world of experimentation, intervened sounds and distortions with an unbeatable team in play: on kick i , featuring Björk, Shygirl, Rosalía, and Sophie who recently died in early 2021; on kick ii, featuring Sia; on kick iiii, calling Oliver Coates, Planningtorock, No Bra, and Shirley Manson from Garbage; and for kick iiiii, featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto.
The second installment of kick confirms that there is a sustained presence of reggaetón as well as pop. Songs like “Prada", "Rakata", "Luna Llena" and "Born Yesterday", with the collaboration of Sia, give proof of this. While tracks like "Araña", "Femme", "Confianza" or "Andro" remind us that this is a process in motion, a mutation. In kick iii you have powerful statements like "Bruja", "Incendio" and "Intimate Flesh" that end up functioning as lapses into the distorted and explosive climaxes of "Morbo", "Skullqueen" and "Señorita" (my personal favorite). While the experience may be overly stimulating, the territories are well marked.
On kick iiii in which Arca opens the conversation and invites collaborators, and the sound possibilities multiply to infinity. The British cellist and producer Oliver Coates collaborated on “Esuna”. She does the same with electronic music producer and composer Planningtorock on “Queer”; with the director, composer, and performer No Bra for “Witch”; and features Garbage's iconic Shirley Manson for "Alien Inside." The musical conversation is complemented by the mutant soundtrack delivered on kick iiiii, which begins with the metallic lust of "In the Face" but becomes introspective as well as luminous and at times sad. The piano on “Chiquito” always makes me cry but also brings me hope in “Ether”. It seems that everything is preparing for the mutant reincarnation that “Sanctuary” proposes with the presence of the legend of technopop, the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Ghersi declared that Kick is the end of an era and I don't doubt that, just as I have no doubt that it has been the beginning of one for many of us. Kick i, ii, iii, iiii and iiiii will remain as an indelible stamp representing the most complex years that I can remember, in particular, 2021, where we realized that ARCA came as a messiah to show us a piece of the future, the one we are so afraid of.
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