Arkestra Discos, Spain
by Pierre Lestruhaut
“Why not just have all these things from our past as well as all of the newest technology from today in one, and just really come up with the craziest shit we can? Let's just bring people into our imaginations as best as we can...” - Steven Ellison, a.k.a. Flying Lotus
You already saw the rating, so we can just as easily start with the obvious and totally overblown critical statement: BFlecha’s βeta is the most accomplished record in Spanish-language pop since Mena. But even within that tier, its pedigree is far more substantial, off-kilter, diverse, and unexpected. Whereas the bulk of Chilean pop that’s been championed around here looked all the way back to disco as the foundation for a new brand of escapist pop euphoria, BFlecha is far more eclectic and flexible in her own sonic references. Although she likes to namedrop '80s Spanish pop (Mecano, Tino Casal) as an influence, her vocals are also incredibly well informed by contemporary R&B. Her sonic palette, although filtered by the use of analog instrumentation, flirts with the epic build-ups of maximalist digital electronica, the bombast of southern hip-hop and trap, and the more restrained luxury of synthwave.
It’s worth noting that BFlecha (moniker of Vigo-based musician Belén Vidal) didn’t come out of nowhere; she’s been a longtime driving force behind Arkestra Discos, Galician music label that’s as forward-looking as it is backward-informed, the kind of imprint that would seem to adopt the above FlyLo quote as a maxim of sorts. But even going by the label’s standards, BFlecha is still in a league of her own. Blurring the line between pop singer and beat maker with ease, it’s insane how well she’s succeeded at it. The clearest and most accomplished representation of where BFlecha stands in her liaison between savvy beat maker, romantic Spaniard pop singer, and potential chart-topping hit maker, is precisely “B33,” the first βeta single we had the privilege to hear back in March and hands down the best track on the album.
Although her previous short releases were led by great instrumental pieces built around trap drops and Chicago house pianos (“Ceja de Carnival” and “Qvasi Naves”), βeta sees BFlecha creating a world more inviting and human, where pop gems really are the album’s absolute centerpieces. “A Marte” starts with a grandiloquent horns and bass intro that could fit in any recent trap release, until her voice finally comes in, quickly morphing the track into a seductive slice of synth-led romanticism. “Mundo Bizarro” is built around a lush beat that feels evocative of airbrush art, the 1970s Los Angeles school of bright glossy pin-ups and palm trees, with guest rapper Arufe verbalising the hedonism associated with it (“Limusina y Chanel / paraíso de papel / viento sobre mi piel”).
“Xenon” is as close as she gets to reviving her “Ceja de Carnival” aesthetic. Informed by Dirty South as much as Spaniard pop, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a 3 a.m. highway drive (“El tiempo se dilata pisando el pedal contra el metal / Dejamos un rostro de fuego al pasar la fase final”). "Мы" is by far her most melancholic and tragic piece to date, with a sly wink at Rustie (electronic music’s most prog-rock influenced producer) as it gives some room for a surprising (and surprisingly good) guitar solo in its closing moments. “Lava Templada” is as radiant and bouncy as a 2-step tune can be, which, alongside dance pop number “Finisterrae,” uses rhythm as a foundation for flowering sound sculptures with results more awe-inspiring than feet-provoking.
It’s no surprise that it was originally the British electronic scene, always being ahead of the curve, that got all over her in the first place. With βeta, though, she's made the kind of record that’s an internet-era music nerd’s wet dream, but whose craft is also populist enough that it shows no signs of underground snobbery. For all of BFlecha's referentiality and hard to nail down references, her music is embedded with the kind of larger-than-life qualities that can reach out to both electronic aficionados and dabblers alike. Her DJ sets are said to be eclectic and know-it-all as fuck, yet always focused on the purpose of getting people to dance. It’s this willingness to conjugate underground innovation with the biggest ideas and best hooks of pop and electronic music that make her a truly unique force in Spaniard music.
βeta's recurring references to space travel invites comparisons with Alfonso Cuarón’s nearly-universally loved film Gravity (I know, what a critical cliché to compare it to the biggest space-based massive pop cultural phenomenon going on right now, but bear with me here) in how these are two works that don’t really excel in neither narrative, nor concept, but in execution. Even though one could argue BFlecha has somewhat made an album album—with an intro, outro, concepts, recurring themes, interludes, thus being more than just a collection of songs—its biggest strength relies in providing an experience of immediate awe and bliss. Like Gravity, it's the perfect alignment of genius and present technology, the kind of masterpiece that could only come from an era such as the one we’re living in.
If you're located in South America or Spain, you can stream the album via Jenesaispop.