Arca – “Xen”

There are few albums which can fully contain and express a figure of imagination, a picture, or story through each and every piece, each track adding another vital aspect and slant to the desired product. Though all music strives to be some form of human expression, few can accurately present a piece that accurately evokes emotion to similar to that of the human soul, even fewer the feelings and events that a person lives through.  With Arca’s first album “Xen” a persona is expressed so brilliantly you begin to feel as if you are listening to the motions and emotions of someone in your presense, rather than simply music itself. You might even catch yourself thinking you even understand this person, but quickly another level of confusion, another variant in life affects both the person and with it your perception of them. The inner demons and complexities of personalities add to many variances and changing atmospheres throughout the album. This soul is experienced and a cautious one too. “Xen” isn’t pretty, but for some reason attractive, with every tone drawing you closer and further along.

The ferocious and volatile beats which are commonfound in “Xen” command you to pay attention, and you will. You will listen to every “word” storied to you and every sentiment which underlines every story expressed. It’s easy to find yourself doing so multiple times, as I am writing this review very early in the morning after repeated attempts to understand “Xen” as I attempt to try and explain this phenomenally creative and wonderful release. The vicious synths, snapping drums, and wistful bass continuously hurtled at you will hit you repeatedly, as if to hammer in a notion that you simply will never comprehend, but have to at least try. Some will stick, others will bounce back as you watch them trail away. You won’t ever know what’s coming next, or when.  It’s this uncompromising and unpredictable nature of this album, that makes it’s so great, so genuine.

The few moments of calm in “Xen” are cold, for example in “Sad Bitch” and “Wound.” Sure they are warming sounds of strings, and basslines that will throb your heart, but it’s the feeling expressed which has yourself in a deep and dark confine which chill you to your bone.

Arca describes Xen as a genderless alter-ego he describes having spiritual ties to, and according to frequent collaborator Jesse Kanda in this very intimate and utterly fascinating Fader article, Arca, a.k.a Alejandro Ghersi, will often become Xen, a spiritual being embodying a more feminine side of Ghersi who rejuvenates herself through creativity and exploration.

Despite Kanda’s interpretation, Ghersi himself explains to the Guardian,

“Xen is a genderless being. It’s about resisting labels and integrating different sides of ourselves. The complicating of one and the other is very fertile, emotionally and creatively. I’ve been thinking a lot about Native American tribes who saw homosexuals within their tribe as those who could see things in two different ways. [Their sexuality] could have a practical use, spiritually.”

It’s a relatively messy album, with spontaneous and sporadic movements being the underlying attitude of the entire work, but it also works very well and in a shocking, but harrowingly beautiful way. In “Xen” the listener becomes the confidant.

– Nick

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Helm – “The Hollow Organ”

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Helm, the alias of London sound artist Luke Younger, has been releasing music since 2007. It wasn’t until 2012’s Impossible Symmetry that Helm was known to much wider audience. That release came out on Pan, and started a wonderful relationship with him and the label. Helm’s recent release, The Hollow Organ, is his third release on Pan.

For the uninitiated, Pan releases music from experimental artists. So on first listen you might be looking at yourself if what you’re listening to is really music, but trust me, here’s a label that specializes in sound. The Hollow Organ is just another fantastic piece from Helm. It opens with a light drone that gives way to thumping percussion and the sounds of what could be a Tesla coil firing straight into you brain. Ominous doesn’t seem to do opening song “Carrier” the justice it deserves. As the storm subsides, it takes you to a leaky boiler room that is possibly being visited by alien invaders.

“Analogues”, the second track is a paranoid race through the dark alleyways of a city that seem entirely too foreign for somewhere you’ve been before. Just when you thought you had finally settled yourself out, a gang of dudes sweep you off of your feet and throw you into a van, carrying you into “Spiteful Jester.”  It’s a mind scraping affair, and leaves you completely discombobulated. It doesn’t stop, as much as you keep forgetting it’s happening.

Closing track “The Hollow Organ” is far the greatest of the four tracks. Imagine after having your brain scrambled in the song before, you wake up and find yourself laying out on an examination chair in the middle of an empty room. You get the strange feeling that something isn’t right with you, and you vaguely remember something happening but you can’t quite place it. You head to the only exit, a large steel door that sits slightly open. Pushing the door open it’s obvious you’re in some underground location. Darkness surrounds you, save a couple of dim lights that flicker from the ceiling. The hallway in front of you extends for quite some distance. Doors are on your left and right, but most are locked, those that do open reveal rooms that have been caved in. Your footsteps echo in the most ominous of ways. You reach the end of the straight hallway with a daunting choice: Left or right? In the current haze you’re in, you choose left. As you go down the black hallyway, you eventually hear an organ being played above you. It’s very disorienting, but you push on regardless. The organ fades slightly, but you finally see light from around a corner. You head up the stairs from which this light is coming from and find yourself emerging in an alleyway. Next to you is an old warehouse you were apparently underneath.  The location is familiar. You pass the warehouse all the time on your way to work, but never pay any mind to it.  With the sound of the organ still faintly playing, you gather yourself and head home, not quite sure what just happened.

Eskimo Eyes – “i cant think”

ImageEskimo Eyes is an endearing DIY bedroom project from Nelson, New Zealand powered by Ike Zwanikken. i cant think is his first release under this project and I think you guys might really like it. He recorded everything himself and cleverly improvises things like snaps and claps by banging keys and even a pizza cutter against a table. This 5-track EP opens with a tune entitled “Don’t Stay Long” which starts out more ambient until the beat kicks in. It is driven by cut up, pitched down, swaying vocals and backed by steady claps. “Do / Get” samples the intro of Kendrick Lamar’s track “Poetic Justice” which serves as kind of a echo-y background to the intricate clinking and drone-y tune. The third song, “May” was the only one out of the five that was recorded in the home the Zwanikken grew up in (as opposed to his current home in Nelson) whilst visiting family and you can even hear his niece and nephew yelling in the background from time to time. This is where the piano and rain were recorded and all of this combined gives the track, interestingly enough, a warm and comfortable “at home” feel. I don’t want to give it all away so I’ll let you guys listen to the rest for yourselves.

You can stream i cant think in full above and keep on the lookout for more new material on his bandcamp page HERE. The download includes an alternate version to the fourth track. Songs written and produced by Ike Zwanikken himself and mastered by his brother Bo.