Directed with his boyfriend — a German photographer who’s worked previously with M.I.A. and Woodkid — Arca (real name Alejandro Ghersi) is several unexplained movements away from revealing himself entirely in “Vanity.”
It’s the latest in a progression of videos, starting from “Thievery,” that come closer and closer to Ghersi’s true image. Unlike those for the two other lead singles from Ghersi’s sophomore record Mutant, “En” and “Soichiro,” in which frames are separated by cuts to black, “Vanity” is four minutes and then some of activity on the screen. Unlike the visuals for iconic Xen (2014) singles “Xen” and “Thievery,” in which filmmaker Jesse Kanda seems to have digitally disguised Ghersi’s body to make it appear more female, “Vanity” is visually unaltered. In a bold new move, there are four different scenes in this new video: Ghersi walks determinedly down a dimly-lit street, writhes primally in a bed, floats calmly in a body of water, and (for a split second) is shown standing in a shower at the end.
For that same split second, the accompanying phrase “to softness as a weapon when the mind attacks itself” in the video description called to mind the new cultural omnipresence of shower thoughts.
By (Urban Dictionary) definition,
For the rest of us mortals, Arca’s music does seem like a series of shower thoughts. It is simultaneously epiphanic sudden, and although memorable, is not inherently useful to recall time and time again. If we can classify music into two categories, one which encompasses music we can work out to, take on a road trip, or incite a dance party with, and another that is disruptively immersive, Arca’s falls neatly into the latter.
Especially with Mutant, out November 20 via Mute Records. The album is a collection of ideas, extensive enough for error and diverse appeal. Some seem more fleshed out while others build slowly with less finality (compare the percussive and driven “Vanity,” “Anger,” and “Snakes” to the abstract and homogenous “Sever,” “Else,” and “Extent”). Mutant employs similar timbres as Xen did, but where its visuals concede production, its audio is more electronic than previous Arca material.
It seems as silly to highlight specific tracks on the record as it does to compare Arca’s new music to anything but Arca’s old music; Ghersi simply doesn’t do or sound like anyone else (or anyone else who’s broken into the popular market). His work with Kanye West, Bjork, and fka twigs aided his debut success, but he cemented it with a fresh, foreign signature. And he just keeps applying the concrete layers with Mutant.
Article by Joanna Jiang