Alejandro Ghersi first came to us in the guise of Nuuro. Some of us first knew him when we were going through the most embarrassing days of our late teens or early twenties, either by running into him on Last.fm or if you happened to be one of the few people interested in Caracas’ little music scene, a rather inhospitable and fruitless one at that. And ooh, boy, those were the days.
In retrospective, it would seem that Ghersi always had a trendy musical palate. Not MTV trendy, more like hipster niche trendy. As Nuuro, he excelled at girly music. Music for hip girls and the ‘sensitive indie boys’ trying to get in their pants. These were poppy, sweet but kind of sad tunes with lyrics looking for some cheering among the comforts that two hearts can offer. Much in the spirit of Cut Copy, The Postal Service, Figurine and Hot Chip leaning towards the more electric, IDM side of the continuum. It was the time to talk about humans the way you talked about computers, with our desires encrypted and expressed through digital channels – you may now remember MSN and face palm – meeting with noise, gaps, misunderstandings, hopes, loneliness and heartbreak. I turn my computer on, I see that there’s no mail. I turn my computer off, did I really like these bands? Of course, I did! (well, maybe just Figurine (1)).
Long gone are the days when Nuuro showed us his gummy, optimistic but very-difficultly-holding-their-breath tunes, and posed here or there with girls as a cute boy of sorts, wearing shiny, highlighting pen shoes and crazy coloured clothing, as also did Todosantos and everyone on the cool, hip electronica scene. That was somewhere between 2005 and the end of the decade.
As of today, he’s moved up in the world, with a musical trajectory to put anyone at a loss. He’s released critically acclaimed EPs where we find his first approaches to his very spatial use of reverb and stereo image. Producing for artists as Kanye, FKA Twigs and Bjork we’ve seen him make incursions in more rhythmically charged territories, as well as in new, strange grounds of very dramatic and airy vocals. Some people caught on his experiments and spread them around, reaching as far as that videogame about popsicles (2). Arca eagerly participates in the musical weirdness phenomenon underlying Grimes’ haircuts, Alt-J’s references to Hubert Selby Jr., James Blake’s retrospective on his only-childhood, and the messy, tortured femininities of Miley Cyrus and the late Katy Perry.
So what’s going on? What happened between the times we said “Gen Y” and the coinage of the “Millenials”? – besides cultural and job market saturation, that is. Trying to tell him from his surroundings, Arca appears as good listener and interpreter – a sort of social thermometer – of the conversations about masculinities and femininities and the fragmentations of these identities: the musings of self-aware, surviving nineties kids: aware of how cultural consumerism shaped their ‘selves’ and trying to do their own thing despite being predestined to fit like a glove in this or that musical niche. Aware of belonging to a world slowly disappearing.
Deserving all praise, Alejandro managed to pull through. Perhaps he didn’t like girls as much, not an easy subject anywhere in a heteronormative globalized world, and especially coming from a rather macho society country as is Venezuela. In his later work he deals with an emotional palette far more intense than the hopeful infatuation of his beginnings.
Musically, it appeals to the raver and IDM crowds and seems fit for very intense shows, yet, the danceable element is somewhat receding, giving place to harmony and song. Thematically, there’s acknowledgement of pain, of fondness unexplainable, a dealing with the discovery of one’s own sexuality and the doors between a single man’s selves.
In transitioning from Xen to Arca, and recognizing these new ways to experience himself — these ways of being before unknown — Ghersi has poured his most intimate, personal processes in albums about disturbing beauties. Looking at his album covers, filled with contrast and disfigurement a-plenty, we can intuit his search for beauty goes deep, way beyond the surface of figures lying in the foreground.