Xen is not Zen, though it’s easy to see why you’d think it might be.
It’s rare that an electronic producer dares to condense their ideas. For a long time I held a sincere belief that most electronic music had a problem of stretching too few ideas over too much time. I believed I valued music that displayed economy and efficiency, made by musicians able to distil core concepts into shorter tracks.
This was likely a reaction to my musical stomping ground being what it was and though I now generally prefer longer tracks, I still have time for music that adheres to these values. Arca’s Xen, is an album with masterfully distilled ideas, and may be the first I’ve heard from an electronic producer.
With an average track length of around 2:30, Arca is not aiming for the club, something that is evident at every level of the tracks. They’re more concerned with texture and melody than the propulsive quality found in most dance music; the beats are often sparse and erratic, indeed anything but danceable.
But if we’re not looking at music with the expressed aim of dancing, what is this aim that Arca has so efficiently captured? Though it’s lazy to simply project the names of the tracks and album on the music itself I think it’s significant that for an album called Xen, the album on the whole is terse and on edge. It feels as though the album is an exercise in catharsis, a means by which the creator can exercise emotions safely and carefully. A means through which, one can reach Xen.