Arca is operating at the bleeding edge of music production but edging towards the mainstream, not that anyone would have known from this awkward, confrontational performance. Work with Mercury nominee FKA twigs and on Kanye West’s daring Yeezus has led to the 24-year-old Venezuelan, real name Alejandro Ghersi, being picked as the principal collaborator on the next Björk album.
These big names ought to rein him in a little, for he was terribly tough going here, dealing out violent stabs of electronic noise over lurching beats that were impossible to dance to, no matter what the writhing, distorted figures on the big screen suggested.
The images, generated by his long-term creative partner Jesse Kanda, began beautifully with a fireworks display filmed from up amid the explosions, but soon horrified with flashing scenes of tonsils and surgery. The main computerised dancing character was called Xen, purportedly Ghersi’s feminine alter ego and the title of his newly released debut album. She was bald and naked, with rubbery elongated arms and legs and a backside that made Kim Kardashian’s look like a meek apricot. At one point her hips appeared to have sprouted multiple additional organs.
Swigging from a champagne glass, Ghersi challenged with his appearance, in tiny crop top and cheerleader’s skirt, his sexual dance moves and his occasional singing – high and weak when he wasn’t rapping in Spanish.
Musically, there were moments of magic during calmer tracks such as Sad Bitch, with notes falling like cold drops of water. Failed could have been a modern classical piece if the keys hadn’t been so distorted. Otherwise there was a wild, improvisational feel, occasionally descending into the kind of awful barrage your toddler might create if given access to a lot of tempting buttons. When some tribal, less mutated beats appeared near the close, it felt like a reward for our endurance.
Ghersi has said that he got the Yeezus job by sending Kanye West “the craziest shit I’d been making”. Credit to Kanye for hearing something he could use, for if this is what the future sounds like, I’m not sure I want to live there.