Cory Arcane follows the story of its titular character, the one depicted in the album's strange artwork, who "found her comfort zone in a constant state of crisis." The sleevenotes fill in the blanks with a jumble of high-concept jargon and social commentary, with the odd bit offering insight into the album's concept: "Endless social media scrolling"; "Slow drift towards the outer limits of society"; "The occasional blasts of kitchen appliances"; "Embracing the mayhem, contemplating the crumbling of a system." Cory Arcane is the story of someone struggling to break through the suffocating din of technology, communication and capitalism. It shows human nature—or at least human turmoil—fogging the immaculate surfaces of Letellier's music, which were once so reflective they seemed to reject feeling altogether.
The album is structured like a film, rising to a climax and coming back down again. It starts with hi-tech broken beat on "Acto" and the pacemaker palpitations of "Dark Barker" before arriving at the more confrontational "These Are My Rivers." The action scenes hit early on with "Safran," a gauntlet of dissociative sounds and textures. It represents both an impressive expansion of Letellier's sound palette (there are wood and rubber textures here) and the record's climate of sensory overload, with noises coming at the listener from all angles. "Burning Bridges" and "Sleepless Roads" reach the boiling point, embodying the personal crisis at the center of the album.
There's a striking moment in the tale accompanying Cory Arcane that points to why the album is so powerful: "The sound of the city, mixed with the music on her headphones, would weave complex rhythms and futuristic textures into a beautifully coloured, pixellated surface." That's a feeling that should be familiar to most modern music listeners. It's the sound of your own music mingling with the sounds of life going on around you. That idea powers Cory Arcane, a record where Letellier's music graduates from self-contained sound design to something contemplative of—and occasionally angry at—the world around it.