The three new albums each represent an expansion on the original KiCk i universe, with their own musical and thematic singularities. KiCK ii dives deeper within the experimental reggaeton pop intersection Arca developed on the first installment of the series. The starpower of “KLK” with ROSALÍA is prolonged across new tracks like “Prada” and ”Rakata”. As defiant as the former, perhaps more sensual and even slightly off-putting, those new additions to the Arca vernacular re-imagine a life without shame and fear.
The glitchy deconstructed club of her past oeuvre permeates the entirety of KiCK ii, particularly in “Tiro” and “Araña”. The former goes full throttle as pop sensibilities crash into a nightmarish broken down metallic reggaeton surcharge. “Araña”, while much more tame in volume, draws from the same well, contorting left and right in a dynamic play of touch-and-go that defies all expectations set by the tracklist leading up to it.
KicK iii is a more turbulent entry in the Arca universe: its relentless ability to generate movement out of stillness makes it one of her most accomplished works to date. “Bruja” is Arca’s version of a ballroom track, filled with sass and contagious energy. Everything hinges on the timing of the percussive mayhem as she utters “Did I stutter? Hear me roar”, setting the tone for the rest of this wild album.
As the tracklist progresses, the night grows deeper and darker. “Skullqueen” provides some respite, as art mimicks club-goers going out to catch some fresh air before heading back in the euphoric darkness of Arca’s glitch hop bash. Such a break comes at an opportune time as the album hits its climax not long after in the joyful chaos of “Ripples” and the subsequent blend of IDM and operatic pop in “Rubberneck”.
The album fizzles out gracefully in “Intimate Flesh” and “Joya”, announcing the dancefloor must be cleared in the former as attendees have to decide which after-party to join. “Fiera” is the unofficial encore, a last hurrah of sorts for the club kids to dance to along irregular percussive drills and ominous pulsating modular bleeps.
The final album unfolds in an entirely different setting. Described as a “sensual charge” and a “posthuman celestial sparkle” (“Alien Inside”) by Arca herself, KicK iiii soundtracks the edges of her universe. So far out from the frenesis of KicK iii and ii, the fourth installment’s driving force is a “bloodlust for beauty” (“Whoresong”).
Gone are the rapid staggered percussion and the glitchy instrumental backings. Arca performs to a more lush, cinematic accompaniment in “Esuna” with Oliver Coates, she summons the instrumentation to follow suit on “Witch” and recites one long incantation throughout “Boquifloja”, Arca’s version of a celestial indie pop song.
kick iiii represents an emphasis on melody over rhythm–the diametric opposite of KicK iii in this respect. As a result, the last installment of the KICK cycle is much more tame, less experimental, less intricate than the three others. It’s almost hollow in comparison to its counterparts, paradoxically harder to make sense of than the more frantic entries released at the same time.
Arca adds a new dimension to the mix with kiCK iiiii’s insistence on centering silence within the music. The tension between rhythm and melody explored across previous installments instantly becomes futile as focus shifts to the weaving of silence and sound. The last album of the anthology is the most outwardly pensive: kiCK iiiii sees voids and doesn’t rush to fill them, perfectly content with absence – almost as much as KicK iii sounds averse to it.
Still, Arca manages to deliver a compelling collection of albums all at once, foregoing all contemporary industry recommendations to release music frequently and in small increments. Despite the many challenges posed by our cultural context and shortening attention spans, the KICK collection doesn’t feel redundant at any point. The versatility of its moving parts ensures its efficiency–while compensating for the few stagnant passages along the way.
With the KICK universe now complete, there’s no telling where Arca will go next. She’ll probably head where we don’t expect her. But before bets are hedged, let’s stay within the confines of the five-part anthology for a while and explore its every nook and cranny.