Arca and Jesse Kanda in London

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  • As introduction, Inga Copeland coaxed out of the Friday evening drizzle a congregation of the sort now familiar to Clapton's in vogue venue, St John-At-Hackney. Her stage presence was strong, more so than in her Hype Williams days. At various intervals, she would duck below her desk to pull out a bell, a triangle and a mouth organ, while programmed drums and onstage sampling explored other sonic frequencies. Tracks ranged from the Monopoly-inspired urban wander "Advice To Young Girls" to the set's climax, "So Far So Clean," and there was even a tangential reference to Dean Blunt's sole grime release "Coroner." The night's headliners, Arca and his visual maestro Jesse Kanda, cranked it from the get-go. Kanda's car-wash intro cleansed the crowd, of which surprisingly few had paid any HBA allegiance, before unleashing Arca’s alter-ego, Xen. The sound from this gender-ambiguous monstrosity clamoured at the ecclesiastical features of the surrounding structure, somehow avoiding a stained glass window catastrophe. At precise moments, Arca would leave his gear-heavy station and start dancing, letting his bodily contortions and gyrations take over. His movements mirrored those of Xen, who was depicted on screen as a grotesque and deformed metallic body undergoing scarification, or an emancipated Saartjie Baartman. Arca never let a track outstay its welcome, hurtling through a selection of album cuts and new productions. Though a stage unavoidably jutted into the crowd, it still came as a surprise when Arca gathered all his energy and vogued along the catwalk in thigh-high patent platforms. Hugged by a corset, he shrieked dominating rap stanzas over layers of strobosonic electronica. The futurism of Arca's music, coupled with the unrestrained energy of his physical performance and Kanda's staggeringly apt visualisations, made for a stunning night's entertainment. It's shows like this that have established Arca as such a unique force in dance music. Photo credit: Brian Whar