Arca – Xen
Having spent two years as hip-hop’s secret weapon, Arca’s leap into the spotlight showcases the auteur at his most sensual. Xen, named after Arca’s female alter ego, reflects a schizophrenia of influences, from booty-shaking soca to Aphex Twin-esque balladry that bewilder and enrapture equally. The album is a slow starter, however once immersed there's no point of return, with the title track exploding before your ears, while the world of Slit Thru carves a scene where drowning and dancing are one and the same.
What shines through most are his more introspective moments: take the detuned forlorn of Held Apart, the beautifully paced Sisters and the weary Failed for examples. Certain moments of Xen fail to live up to Arca’s ethereal creations; Family Violence fake strings feel laboured, whereas Tongue misses a vocal line to grasp to. However the only expectations Arca lives up to are the ones he sets himself; Xen is often beyond the imaginations of his contemporaries. [Jon Davies]