Arca and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Sanctuary’, an Unexpected Utopia

The famed Japanese composer is featured in the final moments of experimental Venezuelan producer’s multi-album project, the ‘Kick’ series.


WordsMiranda Remington

Photo left: Umax LaFuente. Photo right: Jasper Bernbaum

Back in December 2021, the acclaimed Venezuelan electronic artist Arca released a staggering series of 4 albums within a single week. Linking back to an original Kick 1 released in 2o2o, her Kick series was a sweeping project marking a new chapter in her artistic career, but amidst the whirlwind of sounds, a collaborative song with the iconic Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto accented some of its final, most enigmatic moments.


An encounter of epochs

In a mysterious chant, ‘Sanctuary’ from kiCK iiiii bridges the mind-bending experiments of Arca’s queer avant-pop with the cinematic, ambient electronica of Ryuichi Sakamoto. As spectral sounds ripple through a pitch-black canvas, Ryuichi Sakamoto delivers a strange speech—‘Asking to remember, to recognise the alien within. Dignity in the abject…’ Arca’s voice can also be heard swirling and fading in the usual manner of her uncanny sonic world.

Ryuichi Sakamoto and Arca appear to emerge from distant musical spheres. The former is a classical composer, responsible for scoring masterpieces of Japanese cinema and with roots in 1980s synthpop (as Yellow Magic Orchestra). The latter, a Grammy-nominated diva, is a star of the queer underground whose maximalist club sounds and dark latin rhythms have established the mood of our generation. Both figures which have defined landscapes of electronica, the two have previously worked together in Arca’s remix of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 2018 album async.


Feeding-back phenomena

‘Sanctuary’s haunting elegy contrasts to moments of glitch-pop optimism heard in Arca’s releases made only days before. Her distinctive sonic touch is still felt in each texture, but her metallic, contorted worlds unravel as listeners are guided to her innermost emotions. Behind her usual brutalist electronica we encounter her with an ASMR intimacy, and with the influences of classical piano instrumentation she is versed in. The shadow of Ryuichi Sakamoto looms over—a revered composer of piano pieces, in the 1980s, he breathed magic into the mechanics of nascent synthesizer technologies to show how an artificial world can bend elegantly to one’s vision and manifest lively, flowing soundscapes.

Enabled by new plasticities of electronica, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Arca share a bridging of pop and experimental traditions. Our current cultural landscape is at a distance from previous eras under ongoing technological development, when electronica still sparked with the optimism of unlimited potential. Taking mutated eventualities of such aspirations, on the world stage of the 2020s Arca drives boldly through the unknown.


kiCK iiiii (2021), an album by Arca released by XL Recordings.


Photo courtesy of XL Recordings.

Photo: photo by nss (zakkubalan)

Arca, ‘kiCK iiiii’ (2021) features the song ‘Sanctuary’. Courtesy of XL Recordings. Artwork: Frederik Heyman