Last time we peeked in on Afrobeta was after the release of their EP Do You Party? Since then, the Miami-based partnership of Cuci Amador (Cristina Elena Garcia) and Smurphio have refined their sound toward a more consistent and smoother, albeit more pop-focused, version of themselves. Their debut album Under the Streets finds the pair in a sleeker and more refined collection of tracks, as well as with the inclusion of rebooted versions of the songs from Do You Party? And on the flip side, Under the Streets finds them failing to overcome some pitfalls from their debut EP. Is the end result an effort that demands your time, or is it something you can pass over?
A few songs remixed from their previous EP
Firstly, the four original songs from Do You Party? all received a sonic makeover. Some parts remained the same, whether the bass guitar from “As Long As You Like,” the electro aspects of “Play House,” the funky disco melody of “Do You Party?,” or the overall structure of “Two Different Worlds.” But at the end of the day, some changes are merely aesthetic, and some are significant enough to yield a dramatically different result. The tracks that suffered (or improved, depending on your viewpoint) most from this makeover are “Play House” and “Do You Party?”
One of the best aspects from the duo's lead single “Play House” was its insistent and spunky electro arrangement. While the video accompanying the new album version is futuristic and fun, it levels out the song- making it sound shallow and lo-fi while also dropping some of the original segments in favor of different electro sounds. The beginning of the track is interesting, with the sonic building-up of static and Cuci's original distorted vocals, but it seems to go nowhere. The result is a poppier, radio-friendly version of the more aggressive EP version, a definite con in my book. “Do You Party?” similarly lost some edge in the transition, the album track receiving some additional production to fill what may have been perceived as dead space. And yes, the track is infinitely poppier, but the end result lacks a little something that the original had. In the defense of “Play House” and “Do You Party?," if I had not heard the originals first, I probably wouldn't care as much. But the difference is there, it's a distraction, and I prefer what was offered on the EP. As for “Two Different Worlds” and “As Long As You Like,” the changes are simple and purely aesthetic. The tracks maintain their original mood and structure, with “As Long As You Like” getting a fatter bottom as some bass is injected. I have no complaints about the album versions of these two tracks that I didn't already have.
A mix of many influences
The rest of the album contains a bevy of different tracks ranging from the noisy (“Pistol Whip”), the pop-driven (“Love Is Magic,” “Love Fur Life,” “Touch”), the dubstep-flavored (“Jealousy,” “Nighttime”) and others. The album does seem to cover its influences, and one of the strongest seems to be a love for freestyle. Elements of that classic genre pop up at times, especially on “Land of Lost Lovers.” The track “That Thing” seems to run the gamut of applicable influences, the atypical beat structure supporting a symphony of synths and a decently-written hook.
The most obvious aspect of this album is the way the pair changed the sound that put them into people's consciousness in the first place. Whether this is ultimately viewed as a pro or con is determined in the long run by the group's success. But to this reviewer, it's hard to move past the original versions. The rest of the album falls into a “love it or hate it” category, as Afrobeta's brand of electro-flavored pop isn't universally accessible. It is an acquired taste, and despite my critiques, I hope that people acquire it.
Released September 2011 on Do It Entertainment.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the record label. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.