How to Conquer the KICK

It took me half a year, but I’ve finally done it, the unimaginable; I’ve finally conquered the kick. I’ve listened to Arca’s four new albums, KICK ii, KicK iii, kick iiii, and kiCK iiiii many times through, in different moods and settings, occasionally mistaking the construction noises outside my apartment for a bonus track. The first kick, KiCk i (my 2020 AOTY), was released on June 26, 2020, and the series continued with another release on November 30, 2021, and another one a couple days later, and then another one, and then another one. A quadruple release is so overwhelming, so absurd, yet so Arca. She’s a force to be reckoned with and yet again, has delivered us unto a plethoric project of great magnitude.

Along with her own ten studio albums, Alejandra Ghersi Rodríguez has produced for Bjork, Kanye, and FKA twigs; she’s had a grip on me since co-producing my personal bible, FKA twigs’ LP1. As all Arca fans know, our beloved Venezuelan-born electronic musician is a tough cookie. Her lengthy, erratic compositions can be intimidating, but once you crack the surface, you’ll soon be soaring through Arca’s parallel universe, home to her exquisite ballads and blazing chaos. If you’ve yet to dare and have yet to dive into Arca’s most recent releases, I implore you to challenge your audio-boundaries, and follow my lead to conquer the kick. 

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First and foremost, to make this easier on you, you should know that KICK ii is the best album in the series. It is a smoky, eerie clap of thunder that jolts us right back into Arcaland. KICK ii opens in traditional Arca fashion with plenty of whispers, explosions and gory video game simulations. And as the dance record of the quintet, KICK ii thrusts us into liberation; “Dance floors are where I found freedom,” Arca told The New York Times back in December. 

A triathlon of reggaeton blitz develops with “Prada”, “Rakata”, and “Tiro.” All three are fiery, club anthems. Prada is a banger that’s built off industrial, heavy bass yet is coated with a feminine, sheer gloss. Arca says it’s a song about “celebrating psychosexual versatility… explicitly about transness and nonbinary modes of relating the sexual energy of the collective subconscious as a celebration of life.” 

In the music video for “Prada,” an animated Arca dances on a pedestal while the words “second puberty” are burned into the ground. Arca’s queerness is eternally dynamic; in an interview with Glamcult, she explains, “[the self] is shape-shifting ever after and forever, hopefully in the same way that queerness is.” Arca has always embraced the transformation of the body, but on KICK ii, she celebrates rebirth and the many complexities behind both human and non-human beings. She’s known for playing with binaries in this way: she often switches between English and Spanish in her lyrics, sometimes she looks part-human, other times part-robot, and she herself doesn’t identify within the gender binary. 

KICK ii

Any element of structure that KICK ii deceived us with is quickly thrown away with KicK iii, an electric and bizarre experimental record that is oftentimes so abstract that it’s not actually abstract at all. “Bruja” introduces us to the album with the Arca trademark–chanting erratically in English and Spanish over recurring glitches. Arca explained that the glitch motif in her work, what would normally be perceived in video games as a “dead end,” is how she understands many of the binaries that surround us: “I think sometimes conversations about gender are specifically complicated, because maybe they are, in a good way, a dead end. You can have two people arguing about identity politics and gender, screaming at each other with both of their faces red, thinking that they’re right… when it literally might come down to the fact that both see the same word differently.”

On tracks like “Incendio” and “Ripples,” Arca speaks so quickly and abnormally that you never really know what’s her voice and what’s computerized, blurring the lines and becoming one with her electronic creation. By far the glitchiest of the kick series, KicK iii has a clear, bleak and industrial foundation with Arca’s signature motorized repetition framing individual tracks. It closes out with “Joya,” a tangy and delicate segway into kick iiii

kick iiii is the soft, most ethereal electronic composition of the series. It rests in the sweet spot between Arca’s signature ambience and experimental anarchy. Two of my personal favorites of the series are on this one: “Xenomorphgirl” and “Queer.” “Xenomorphgirl” is a lush, calming wheel of color, while “Queer” is a glamorous and powerful anthem for fluidity.

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And at last, for the finale, Arca lets us off easy with her own version of a lullaby with kiCK iiiii. The ambient record of the series, kiCK iiiii is a dramatic shift from i-iiii, rich with transcendent melodies and poignant movement; “Estrogen” is pure delight–creamy, serene, and charming. The whole record is predominantly piano and strings, and like all of Arca’s work, you can hear the pristine production in every single beat. Songs like “Amrep” build from ambience into a noisy, bustling blitz, while others like “Tierno” really stand out from the sister kicks with gentle, velvety vocals melting over a tranquil instrumental. Our fated closure after weaving through the maze of kicks, kiCK iiiii rewards us by humming us to sleep, for now, we may rest, because we have conquered the kick.

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