The Brooklyn resident blesses us with another album full of seamless alt-pop.
With his fifth full-length release Private Energy on Asthmatic Kitty Records, Roberto Carlos Lange (better known as Helado Negro) displays the full extension of his sonic craftmanship. Bilingual and introvert, the album is clearly a reflection of Lange’s personal identity as a Floridan and American born to Ecuadorian parents, and doesn’t shy away from making political points rooted in his own experiences as a man of the latin diaspora.
In fact, the whole album was conceived as a reaction to the political climate in his native USA. Having returned exhausted from a tour in 2014, Lange got wind of the fact that the police officer that had killed Michael Brown in the Ferguson shootings would not be indicted, thereby receiving impunity. Being a result of the American melting pot, Helado Negro felt disillusioned with the public breakdown of the pluralistic American society he cherished so much, leaving him wondering about his own place in the country that he called home. However, instead of protesting on the street, Lange decided to make his own private statement on the current state of affairs. The result of his efforts is Private Energy, and even though the whole album isn’t defined by Lange’s politics, songs such as ”Young, Latin and Proud”, ”It’s My Brown Skin” and ”Runaround” clearly touches upon the difficulties of understanding concepts like identity and ethnicity in today’s globalist yet increasingly xenophobic world.
However, it isn’t politics that characterizes Private Energy, but rather its subtle productions and clever arrangements, that all build up to create a seamless album divided into five parts, with each part being introduced by a short instrumental interlude (”Obra Uno” to ”Obra Cinco”). Even though the album was produced within the four walls of Lange’s home, it still has an unbelievably crisp sound to it, showcasing Helado Negro’s talents as a producer.
In terms of comparing his sound to other musicians, Helado Negro is a tough cookie to categorize. On the one hand, Private Energy recalls the soundscapes of artists such as Brian Eno and Damon Albarn, leaving the music to oscillate between alternative pop and rock, with the odd bit of hiphop drum machine making its way in there. Paired with the soft and unaggressive vocals that reminds one of Mo Kolours and Helado Negro’s bilingual colleague Devendra Banhart, the result is a unique listening experience that will at once put you in a state of hypnosis: dream-like, yet aware of the hardships that dictate modern society.
If you feel like you haven’t had enough of Helado Negro, you can listen to more of his music on Soundcloud, Spotify or Bandcamp. You can also follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter if you want to know more about upcoming releases and shows.