Where Arca’s previous release Xen (2014) was introspective, Mutant is outwardly emboldened. Dedicated to and coloured by the important people in Arca’s life, Mutantillustrates the continuing mutations catalysed by loved ones: friends, family, acquaintances. Arca morphs for them and because of them. Both releases are contortionist shape-shifters, but where Xenasked us to meet her in her world, Mutantcomes out to meet us in the light. Mutant is suggestively agape, embracing multiple sensualities with refreshing softness. Jesse Kanda’s organic cover art, luminous where Xen’s was shrouded, is a reflection of this.
In the artist’s words: ‘Mutant is about sensuality and impulsiveness as escape routes out of rigidity. Softness as a weapon when the mind attacks itself.’ Mutations in the records’ textures parallel the malleability of identity; tension is harmonised by openness and the inclusiveness of transformation. Pride is taken in deformity, innocence, distortion and vulnerability: traits often ostracised as undesirable. Themes that have animated Arca’s work â€“ tension, polarities, playfulness, eroticism, mutability â€“ have been refracted into newer, more nuanced shades. Fluctuation, in-betweenness, intimacy and chaos are celebrated.
The title track softens the space between abrasion and enlightenment, morphing from snarling aggression to elusive vapour, the atmosphere shifting at unexpected moments. Its impulsive video consists of an unchoreographed first and single take of Arca dancing. The attached self-portraits of Arca are comparably raw. ‘Anger’ is celebratory and carnival-esque, while ‘Faggot’ concludes with rhythmic allusions to the title track from Xen. The dripping sounds of ‘Umbilical’, fused with the title’s connotations of birth, clash with digital static. ‘Enveloped’ is a label suggestive of overwhelming but comforting containment, yet the track itself feels liberated, with warped strings crawling from the uniform rhythm in the piece’s latter moments. ‘Vanity’, ‘Snakes’ and ‘Soichiro’ are personal and intimate sweltering rainforests of sound. Buds open as tracks unfold, petals of the darkest reds and most vivid blues bloom. Deep roots of bass crawl through the earth beneath the record, anchoring each organism. The only essential consistency between the tracks is a refusal to sit still.
The constant liminality of Mutant is hard to pin down; something seen out of the corner of one’s eye that has moved elsewhere in the time it takes to bring it into focus.