Festival golden rule: always bring your own toilet roll
Arriving on stage in a grand, white, uniquely-shaped and masked outfit, Arca, begins his 2am set resembling some sort of beekeeper and astronaut hybrid. Initially, the rumbling, gurgling and brooding electronics that hum from the speakers matches his distinct aesthetic – all odd and out of shape but alluring in its wonkiness.
However, before Alejandro Ghersi – the artist and producer who has worked with everyone from Björk to Frank Ocean – gets going he is derailed by technical problems before ushering staff on stage to work away while he addresses the crowd and tells them a story about a dream he had. Through no fault of Arca’s own it’s a jarring, fractured start to a set that never really fully recovers or finds its groove.
The Venezuelan artists speaks mostly in Spanish to the audience and there are countless nods to Spanish and Latin music as flamenco guitars nestle up alongside splintered electronics and wild, sputtering, unpredictable beats.
Whilst Arca’s most recent 2017 self-titled album plays out as one long, continued and interlinked mood piece, quietly grinding away in an eerie sic-fi-esque manner, tonight appears to be like Arca’s brash alter ego who is here intent to leave his mark on the party by any means necessary. As Madonna’s ‘Hollywood’ plays out behind the crunch and splice of hissing electronics, someone arrives on stage to assist in a a costume change as Arca is stripped to almost nothing. Then with one stiletto and one cowboy boot in place, he continues to prowl the stage either spitting out high-octane vocals into the warm Catalan night or residing behind his desk, head-down and blasting out an increasingly distorted series of noises.
Such eclecticism feels rooted in wishing to give the audience a more broad, encompassing and party-like set but it often lacks flow or coherence, as sounds collide into one another like drunks on an ice rink. There’s even a heavy metal section of the evening by which point the whole set feels like it’s being dictated by that guy at the party who has taken control of the music but can’t settle on a genre long enough to build any flow and so impatiently flicks between tracks never really giving each one long enough to ride it out.
The mood continues to fluctuate, shifting from moments of euphoric dance to esoteric noise – it feels like Arca seems almost to present his music as much as an affront as he does with affection. He lies on his back with his legs kicking in the air as a weird mish-mash of sounds erupts behind him. All the while his unfurled outfit now resembles something like a mummy that has come back to life or a teenager who has got himself entangled when trying to toilet paper someone’s house. By the time Arca begins yodelling, all bets are truly off as to where musically this set is going to go.
It simply becomes a case of riding out this strange merging of sounds until its reaches its natural ending, which of course matches the sheer unpredictability and jarring mess of its beginning. Arca’s set feels like a bold, challenging and potent one but the screeching incoherence of it all just ends up making it feels like more of failed experiment than a soaring result.
Photos: Primavera Sound / Eric Pamies
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