Review Summary: Let's ask the questions.
Who am I? What does it mean to be this thing called a human? Questions these grand can not be answered simply, but with Arca's Mutant, there is a great sonic attempt to at least ponder them. These songs are not simple attempts at hits that try to have a philosophical backing; this is a journey. Questioning one's humanity is not meant to be simple and trife.
All these landscapes created are beautiful and chaotic in their vision. The 7 minute title all at once gives a general synopsis of the album's sound – starting stopping chaotic beats, with a contrasting a soundscape growing more complex and lively, tearing everything apart while still giving some structure to hold on to. Much like thoughts of the mind though, these sounds can go deeper. These landscapes can range from the beautiful shiny landscapes of Sever and Hymn, to more brooding and depressed landscapes such as Extent; but there is a definite coherence that ties the tracks together. Each track smoothly transitions into the next – akin to following one's own mind from one idea to the next. But this is a mind in conflict. It can be found from the voices in En battling each other to the white noise drenched growls of Beacon; all trying to figure this out.
Like the title suggests, this journey takes you outside the realms of what is human, often times to pure synthetic worlds. In the minimal piano track Else, the piece starts off being played with organic intention and direction, but the song is bombed with explosive synths trying to kill off any sense of humanity. In Hymn, there is the sound of blissful torture, as the bright landscape created is accompanied by a feel of jitteryness and noise that builds up to a crescendo of an abrupt, screaming end. Similarly, Extent feels like an envelopment of any remaining humanity, with slow, brooding, synths and muffled robotic screams that ultimately to a muffling of the soundscape itself. There is a certain comfort in this though. In the following track, Envelopment, actual rhythm and overall sense of triumph can be felt. It's alright to be mutant.
The only possible gripe to be had with this journey is the length of it. While the album does not feel like a chore to listen to, it rather feels like many similar ideas used over again. This creates a slight deja-vu factor for many of these tracks, such as Gratitud and Sever's similarly shiny mandolin sounds with Alive and Umbilical's jittery synths. While this could have been expressed in different terms to give the journey more polish, that could be the point – to revisit the same landscapes with a different mindset.
Have you found yourself yet? Do you know if you are even human? Probably not. The last two tracks on this album show that we're probably never going to know. By Soichiro, this frustration has reached the point of self-destruction, with screaming and breaking down. It seems like this is the only solution. Nothing has been figured out though. With Peonies' phased out and barely there sound – the journey continues.