P18's Urban Cuban debut CD was a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection of rough-around-the-edges sketches blending the seemingly incompatible Cuban music tradition and the electronica/modern dance world. But Electropica is pretty much a day-to-night transition to a sleek, streamlined Euro-house driven by four-on-the floor drums that's geared toward the modern dancefloor, with the Latin elements reduced to a background flavoring role. "Candele" is the first song where it really registers that this is the musical thrust of Electropica, and a dancefloor-groove frame of mind is mandatory for fully appreciating it. It's not hard when grooves like the title track work up a substantial sweat, but "Chango Dé" is kind of dancefloor-filler with Femi Kuti guesting on sax amid Afro-Cuban backing chants and some flute near the end. "Energia Solar" gets right back to the dance groove and the chants are recycled on the traditional piece "Yemaya Asesu." "Entre Sol y Palmeras" is a slower stab at dance-pop sounds with some bass funk added to the four-on-the-floor beat before "La Rampa" pumps up the tempo volume once again. "Oggun Mariwa" is almost like non-Jamaican-rooted dub full of keyboard atmospherics, while "Mi Rumba? Ça Va!" closes with bright Latin trumpets setting off dark synthesizer burbles before the straight-up Latin outbreak. That may be the closest to what P18 sounded like on Urban Cuban -- and it's certainly not as musically dynamic or creatively distinct as the Totó la Momposina sample-driven "La Verdolaga" from that first album. There's a sneaking suspicion that leader Tom Darnal got a little too caught up in programming his keyboard sounds here, but it's crystal clear that the next P18 disc will be the rubber match in deciding whether Darnal wants refinement or roots idiosyncrasies to rule his techno-Cuban concept.
AllMusic Review by Don Snowden
feat: Femi Kuti