With his new album “Far In”, Helado Negro faces earthly anxieties
The end weighs heavily Helado Negro. Part of his unease stems from traditional concerns, like aging (the musician, born Roberto Carlos Lange, turned 41 this year). But some are the consequence of impending global disasters: the existential fear of climate change, the seemingly endless nature of the pandemic. âI know the world has always been in some kind of conflict and constant flux,â he said. “But it feels even heavier now.”
Since 2009, Lange has been creating traveling and dreamlike music. On six studio albums and five EPs, he has assembled lunar synths, tape loops and field recordings into gentle experimental compositions that meditate on immigrant identity, healing and tranquility. In 2019, he received scholarships from United States Artists and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, highlighting his immersive and multidisciplinary approach to performance, sound and visual arts. âFar In,â her debut album for independent label 4AD, will bring its subtle hymns to what may be her biggest audience yet on Friday.
On a video call from Asheville, NC – where Lange and his wife, artist Kristi Sword, moved in last summer after more than a decade in Brooklyn – he offered a tour of his new home, whose exterior is painted in sky blue. âI’ve lived in small apartments for 15 years,â Lange explained, as studio equipment paraded: vintage synthesizers, an antique piano – the foundations of Helado Negro’s soothing and heavenly lullabies.
Lange’s debut album as Helado Negro, “Awe Owe”, blended some of the sounds of his South Florida upbringing into warm bilingual jams, weaving whimsical, whimsical folk into mellow beats and melting marimbas. Since then, Lange, who is the son of Ecuadorian immigrants, has become more electronic: The albums “Invisible life” (2013) and “Double youth” (2014) sewed robotic synths and tender melodies into wandering, looping bursts, much like Lange in conversation – he often interrupts one idea for another. On Twitter, he described the songs on “Far In” as “meanders of the mind drawn into the sound”.
Lange has spent his whole life daydreaming through cinema and music. When he was in college in the early ’90s, his older brother returned from a high school trip to Europe with a collection of techno, acid jazz, and jungle compilations that sparked his obsession with electronic music. After he got to high school, he would go to a record store in South Beach to buy Aphex Twin and Tortoise CDs for parents in Georgia.
This early exposure to electronic music “really rocked my brain,” Lange said. This led him to underground parties hosted by a pirate radio station in Miami, where he was mesmerized by DJs and ragga MCs.
Lange eventually ended up in Georgia to study computer art and animation at Savannah College of Art and Design, where he took a class with a professor who introduced him to sound installation. âIt just tweaked my brain even more,â he explained. “I was just like, ‘What is this? I want to do stuff like this.
Lange’s profile increased in 2015 and 2016 with the release of the tracks “Young, Latin and proud” and “It’s my brown skin” hymns of gentle affirmation for many Latino listeners grappling with xenophobia and racism during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and his early days in office. While on tour, after long and demanding performances, fans approached him and shared their own experiences. âIt meant a lot to me,â Lange said. âA lot of things were really beautiful, but really difficult. “
On âFar Inâ, these themes are a little less literal. âI will refrain from sharing a lot of my own traumas,â he said. “There is an aspect of sharing experiences and, depending on their intensity, some of them can make people complicit in your misery.”
Lange was partly inspired by the 1991 sci-fi epic “Until the End of the World”, which almost became the title of the project. âI have a good relationship with films that don’t hold your hand so much,â he said. âThat’s why I love this Wim Wenders film. It starts somewhere and it ends somewhere else.
Ed Horrox, the 4AD executive who signed Helado Negro to the label, said Lange has a powerful ability to forge connections: âWhether it’s in person, whether it’s on a Zoom call, whether it’s a bloody three-line text, “he said. in a video chat, “he has a knack for sharing warmth and positivity”. Horrox first discovered Lange’s work while researching music to play on his London radio show “Happy Death” and followed him over the years. The response to Lange’s arrival on 4AD from listeners proclaiming him “my favorite artist” has been “quite overwhelming,” Horrox said.
The star of “Far In” “Outside the Outside” is a soft focus disco groove with laser synths and punchy bass that is an ode to the small pleasures of diasporic life: his video is a montage of camcorder footage from holidays to the house his family hosted in the 1980s, when they stood dancing to salsa or merengue. âI was waking up and it was 7 am and people were still drinking downstairs,â Lange said with a laugh.
“La Naranja”, a prayer for the apocalypse, comes towards the end of the album. âY sÃ© que sÃ³lo tÃº y yo / Podemos salvar el mundo,â Lange sings with a sunny glow. “And I know that only you and I can save the world.” âLa Naranjaâ exudes radical hope, but many songs in âFar Inâ also deal with the confrontation of the end with a sense of presence, even knowing that fate is near, such as âAguas FrÃasâ and âWind Conversationsâ. Â», Both inspired by the ecological drama of the Texan landscape. (Lange and Sword were in Marfa during the first few months of the pandemic working on âKite Symphony,â a multimedia project documenting the wind, sound and light of West Texas.)
L’Rain, a Brooklyn-based experimentalist who played bass on three of the songs on the album, said sweetness surrounds Lange, both as a collaborator and a singer. âIt’s an intimacy that is really immediate and really visceral,â she said in a telephone interview. âWhen you work with Roberto, at all levels – from the way he sends emails to the way he schedules rehearsals, talks to us about the music and asks us for our opinions – you just feel respected and taken in. charge, âshe said.
The intentions that Lange set for the project also offered inner peace. âI feel the most comfortable I have ever felt expressing myself through music,â he said. âSound and music have always been that for me: it’s always been this great place to come in. It’s the best way for me to be part of this idea – to be present inside. “