I didn’t think I was going to like this album as much as I did.
Never have I seen an album with such an apt name.
You may primarily know Venezuelan electronic music producer Arca not by his solo work, but by his contributions to other artists’ work; he lend some notable hands to the production on Kanye West’s Yeezus, Björk’s Vulnicura, and numerous works by FKA twigs. He was on my horizon for a long time, and judging by the cover art of his albums alone, I was subliminally conditioning myself to weirdness. In retrospect, I didn’t condition myself enough.
Arca’s Mutant is some of the most experimental and truly off-kilter music I’ve ever had the privilege to listen to, and this is coming from someone who enjoys Aphex Twin and IDM–sorry, braindance–as a whole. It wobbles, reverberates, rumbles, clangs, and pounds like the sonic equivalent of the death throes of a mutant.
Its nightmarish, distorted, and discomfort-inducing soundscapes are spacey and abstract yet are nevertheless brought together by an animalistic need for rhythm communicated through disjointed swings and garbled grooves. The album is aggressive and dark at some points, and pensive at others. All of these sounds come together to create a world where warm, bubbling synths live in harmony with distorted roars, and a world that’s best consumed and explored as a whole and not through individual tracks. (This has upsides and downsides. When I go back to this album to re-enjoy certain songs, the wholeness of the album in its complete form will probably be negated and the songs’ effects will no longer be compounded.) It’s a world so mesmerizing that even though it by all means shouldn’t work–it does.
I didn’t think I was going to like this album as much as I did. I went into it expecting meticulously arranged nonsense, and that’s exactly what I got–but it sounded good and gave me a reason to keep listening, although it disturbed the hell out of me upon first listen. The album’s scattershot natures combined with its just-over-an-hour runtime made me doubt whether following its twisted, gnarled footsteps to the end would be worth it; I admittedly found myself drudging through certain parts of Mutant‘s second half, and while the soft-spoken album closer “Peonies” isn’t my least favorite song, the penultimate song “Soichiro” would’ve made a far more satisfying finale.
Perhaps it’s not on the “seeing through to the heart of the album so everything makes sense” levels of Trout Mask Replica, but Mutant is definitely an album for a select few, and I’m happy to be a member of said select few.
Consensus: As abhorrent and abrasive as it is addictive, Arca’s Mutant is an enthralling and rewarding listen as well as a refreshing, unabashed push in an unforeseen direction for the genres of experimental electronica and IDM.
Favorite tracks: “Front Load”, “Mutant”, “Vanity”, “Soichiro”, “En”, “Enveloped”
Least favorite track: “Gratitud”
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