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Mutant

Fresh from a contact high after co-producing Björk's Vulnicura, Alejandro Ghersi returns to solo work only a year after Xen, his debut full-length on Mute. With 20 tracks stretched over an hour, Mutant is the sound of the Venezuelan producer reaching out in every direction simultaneously. The instrumental hip hop of his first LP is largely jettisoned and, in its place, pure sound design.

Opener 'Alive' stutters and skips, the beats tripping over each other like three out-of-sync records playing at once. Some of the sounds Ghersi uses share a MIDI brightness with pop provocateurs PC Music, though where they construct Western chart fodder, Arca demolishes it. His melodies are stretched, morphed and finally pulled apart, like plastic warped in heat. If electronic music of the 80s sounds like being locked in a factory, Mutant is the inside of a 3D printer.

Below the day-glo synths lurks darkness. Rather than consistent beats, Ghersi mostly opts for weapons-grade sub-bass, used sparingly but with room-shaking effect on 'Sever'. When human voices improbably surface, as on 'Umbilical', they are mangled, cut into meaningless phonemes.

Other tracks exude an unembellished prettiness, such as the glow tones that wash in and out of 'Extent', and the delicate Satie-esque piano line that undermines the low-end violence of 'Sinner'. Mutant is a record that's impossible to grasp or define clearly, and it can be difficult at first to find a way in. Only the track titles – 'Anger', 'Faggots', 'Vanity' – hint at the meaning behind these abstract sound structures, and remind us why Arca is one of the most important voices in the increasingly homogenised electronic underground.

Sam Gregory

by Now Then Sheffield