Wench - Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 Music Album Reviews

Wench - Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 Music Album Reviews
This collaboration between Arca and Shayne Oliver looks back at a scene where queer and trans artists of color birthed avant-garde club sounds that continue to hold sway today.

The duo of Arca and Shayne Oliver, founder of the successful fashion brand Hood By Air and the multidisciplinary creative studio Anonymous Club, WENCH is the musical collaboration of two club kids, who—in their kinetic alignment and disdain for the mainstream—became two of the most influential people in their respective fields during the 2010s. WENCH formed shortly after Arca, aka Alejandra Ghersi, met Oliver during the latter’s days as resident DJ and co-host of the prolific underground party GHE20G0TH1K—a queer punk/rave space founded by Venux X where artists like Total Freedom and Nguzunguzu came up, a space extremely formative to the trans clubscape of today. Their first stint working together produced the Swaggot Trilltape in 2013: a sample-heavy, 33-minute “goosebump pop” mixtape that jumped between hip-hop, industrial, techno, bass, noise, and more; they described it as “the sounds you remember after you exit the club on your way home.”

WENCH eventually produced more projects, including the HBA Galvanize soundtrack and Arca’s cult classic Sheep. They had plans to release a full-length LP, where they promised to capture a “hypercharged” sensuality, but that never came to light. A compendium of unreleased productions, Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 marks the duo’s official debut, finally capturing the erratic energy that beatmaker Arca and vocalist Oliver fomented at the height of their partnership. Like much of Arca’s previous work, Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 rejects normative forms in favor of an amorphous embrace of the abject. In its reproach of the mainstream emerges a celebration of the queer-of-color punk, industrial, and electronic sounds that dominated raves of the 2010s (and continue to do so today). Supported by Arca’s sludge-tinged explosions, Oliver interjects with ballroom-esque one-off phrasings that cement Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 as a document of queer euphoric defiance, sexual emancipation, and sweaty club intoxication.

Sexually charged sound design and subject matter gives Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 its bite. Elements of hardcore techno and digital punk excavate righteously horny revved-up representations of queer sex. “Fister” is a blown-out ambient-industrial track that’s as hard hitting as the act from which it gets its namesake. “Primal Pussy” hypnotizes, pairing Oliver's repetitions with droning alarm-signal synths: “Primal pussy/Got you oh so gushy, it’s so pussy.” On “Snake,” Oliver hisses, “Take my body like a snake, take my sss/Take my bussy, recreate,” against booming bass synths that evoke a humid, heaving dancefloor. The erotic mode they evoke—an act of relinquishing bodily and sexual control in the name of music—was birthed in the spaces that WENCH called home, and it continues today in quintessential trans spaces like Club Carry or For the Gworls.

Heard without context, WENCH might seem like a one-off collaboration. Much of the record sounds like sliced-up mutilations of Arca’s earliest work on Stretch 2 and &&&&&. But Oliver’s playful lyrics add a new dimension that, in retrospect, feeds into Arca’s earliest expressions of trans identity. In a 2016 Dazed interview, Shayne Oliver said that WENCH “started out as a sexually deranged music project that had a lot to do with tension, sexual identity and how to feel like a man having sex with the feelings of a woman and a man.” Through Oliver’s disdainful vocals and celebratory filth, the music teases at the carnal themes that Arca would express more explicitly in Arca and the KiCK series.

Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 offers an essential retrospective look at the way WENCH and their peers birthed a fluid array of hard-hitting electronic music that is distinctly queer and trans in foundation. Yes, some of Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 is messy—the vocal undulations on “Rocker Fish” are unpolished in an unflattering way—but much of that is intentional, because in its off-kilter design, it is distinctly queering sound, celebratory in its rejection of societal norms. Enticing in its popper-whiffing rush, it is punk and goth in blueprint, and an abundance of youthful euphoria (reflective of the time in which it was recorded) adds color to the record’s darkly lit worlds. On “Teen Spirit,” supported by arcade-game synths, WENCH capture the juvenile sound of queers of color coming into their identity with confidence. Album highlight “Sick” is among the album’s most comical songs: With its ballroom-inflected interjections and pitched-up laughter, the video chronicles a Black trans woman and Shayne Oliver kiki-ing around town, an endless vision of leisure and shit-talking.

While Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 plays like a marker of GHE20G0TH1K’s success, it is just as much a sensually crafted love letter between Oliver and Ghersi. Arca has spoken tenderly about calling Oliver “mother,” while Oliver has detailed the two being physically affectionate with one another in private and public spaces. “Take My Hand” is a full-on display of their shared affinity. “Ba ba ba ba black sheep,” Oliver echoes from a distance, calling upon fellow outcasts to take his hand and seek solace within this music. It’s through songs like this that Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 feels so representative of the creative and personal bonds that queer and trans artists of color often express. Behind the record’s gnashing synths and siren-like vocals is a broader, more emotive narrative on the ways that many underground queers survive and make art in the digital age.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Wench - Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 Music Album Reviews Wench - Greatest Hits ’88 - ’16 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on August 31, 2022 Rating: 5


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