KICK ii, KicK iii, kick iiii, and kiCK iiiii
XL · November 30 – December 3, 2021
Arca, Venezuelan electronic artist and dominator of all things experimental, has recently delivered four new albums to her Kick series. This five-part sequence is Arca’s expression of her identity as a trans-femme queer woman, her philosophies on art, and her love of pushing experimental boundaries. These albums were released back-to-back from November 30 to December 3, a year and a half after releasing the first installment in June 2020.
Each album creates a new reality, or planet in the Kick universe, that the listener is thrust into. This wide variety means there is something for everyone in Arca’s musically expansive audience, from Latin dance-pop to ambient experimental sounds. While there is a lot of diversity in these rapid-fire album releases, each track is distinctly hers, with harsh metallic clangs and entrancing instrumentals.
The second album in the series overall, KICK ii is the first album released among the quartet and is the definitive Latin/reggaeton-inspired album of the bunch. Arca was born and partially raised in Venezuela, and incorporates her roots into this mainly Spanish spoken start to the releases. To start the album is “Doña,” with crunchy, hair-raising instrumentals adorning her heavily autotuned voice. It’s a perfect introduction to Arca’s album ripe with deviations of both Latin dance and her usual electronic flare.
The tracks conjure a vision of a futuristic party in space where Arca is the eternal DJ who transcends language. If Arca was jockeying “Tiro” or “Rakata” at the tower of Babylon, everyone would understand the irresistible rhythms and scorching beats. It’s refreshing and exciting to hear a fully realized work of Arca’s that is in touch with her Venezuelan heritage. In the past, she has incorporated it in her works, but here, it is put on full display.
Arca is known for having a challenging sound, but here, she eases the listener into a world of chaotic noise. After getting a taste of the metallic beats that infiltrate a dance-pop barrier, it’s hard to get it out of your head. While the use of various noises can seem random, it all mixed together to make some truly catchy club songs.
If you want to get into Arca, I would recommend bumping “Prada” or “Born Yesterday,” a rework of a Sia track, to get a glimpse into Arca’s mind of music.
Next in the Kick world is KicK iii. This is her silliest and most playful album – a whimsical, explosive, and fiery compilation of her unrelinquished productional powers, and she holds nothing back.
This album has already been praised as her best work of the series, due to its intense nature: less is not more, more is more! Arca pushes the boundaries and stretches them hair-thin, introducing sounds of electronic churning and distorting chiming. Much like a roller coaster, this album has the listener strapped in tightly, with twists and loops that will make you left dizzy with excitement after finishing it.
The lyrics do not disappoint either. Starting off with a bang, the first song “Bruja” begins with the warped voice of Arca screaming “OOOOH SHIT, ARRRCCAAA,” setting a stimulating tone for the entire album. Arca goes on to sing about her new psychological complexes, Electra Rex – it’s out with Freud, in with Arca – and her exploration of her sexuality.
The overall tone is self-realized; the listener can join in on the fun Arca is offering and have a great time listening to it, even if some of the sounds are off-putting. Overall, this album is a compelling work of musical tinkering, letting us all know Arca isn’t going anywhere.
Next is kick iiii, a harder-to-define work in the cycle. This album is purely electronic and experimental, with different tones and styles in each song. The one thing wrapping the entire album together is the theme of queerness. From “Xenomorphgirl” to “Alien Inside,” she details the aches and triumphs of what it means to her to be queer – there’s even a track titled “Queer.”
The album has some of the same elements from the previous Kick albums, like heavily edited instrumentals and distorted singing. However, the tone is more spacey and strung out, where, in some songs, there is less of a linear bass line, leaving the sound more ambient in nature. Some very zany high-pitched noises and some rock elements are in the mix as well. The track “Boquifloja” uses an indie rock style guitar riff with overstretched and wispy vocals, which was surprisingly enjoyable.
While there is new terrain covered with this album, it’s probably the most difficult to get into. While the meaning of these tracks is expressed, they are delivered with such complexity that it’s tricky to grasp a hold of what’s really going on with this album. It’s still an interesting listen, but definitely highly experimental, which is what Arca’s all about. In an interview with New York Times, she explained how she’d rather put out music that she enjoyed and push the envelope, rather than appease the masses.
All good things must come to an end, and Arca makes sure the closer to her Kick series lasts with you. kiCK iiiii is Arca’s take on melodramatic modern classical music. It’s a somber and emotional send-off, decorated with piano keys and computer-y beeps alike.
After being hit with the high energy of the first two releases and the comedown from the third, this album lets the listener breathe and take in Arca’s softer side. The sound is more refined and stripped back. Arca samples her own sound from past works, like her synth line from “Mequetrefe” on KiCk i, along with her dazzling piano skills to make some very emotional tracks.
Arca delivers on instrumentals, but an underrated factor of her musical arsenal is her voice. Her vocals on this album are a contrast of ghostly and bittersweet, making the listener experience Arca’s perceived sadness with having to part with the “kick.” The emotional opera resembles mourning songs for the Kick universe as it drifts further and further away into space and time.
Arca ends the entire cycle with the finale “Crown.” It’s a piece with all of the essentials: a distorted operatic voice, squelching clanks, and a biting piano. Arca explains the story of herself as a human being in these albums – her joy, her pain, her lust, and her dysmorphia – and leaves us with a final line: “She wears her crown.”