“Madre” (ft. Oliver Coates) by Arca Review


It is tempting to rely on the vocabulary of classical music to describe Arca’s “Madre.” On the first track of her new maxi-single, cellist Oliver Coates’ strings bloom into doleful tendrils and Arca’s forlorn vocals curl into a delicate aria. But a closer listen reveals something far from the orchestral: the sense of capacious longing so central to boleros, tonadas, and other styles of Latin American folk music. Whenever Arca momentarily sets aside her club machinations, she seems to draw on the deep sense of anguish embedded in these traditions. On “Madre,” it is no surprise that Arca returns to Spanish and the melancholia that attends these styles—she sees the language as the “ultimate theatre of emotion, when things fall apart,” and “Madre” seems to chronicle the undoing of a strained familial relationship.

At nine minutes, the song runs like a sustained lamentation; Arca immerses us in tender torment, cooing the phrase “madre mía” over and over. The catharsis reaches its crest in the seventh minute, when she delivers the gut-wrenching line in a castrati register: “El cordón umbilical nunca se cortó/Hasta que lo hice yo” (“The umbilical cord was never severed/Until I did it”). Even when Arca purges, she does it with grace, and “Madre” reflects her singular capacity to create moments of terrible beauty.


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