Helado Negro returns with This Is How You Smile, an album that freely flickers between clarity and obscurity, past and present geographies, bright and unhurried seasons. Miami-born, New York-based artist Roberto Carlos Lange embraces a personal and universal exploration of aura - seen, felt, emitted - on his sixth album and second for RVNG Intl. This Is How You Smile derives from Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl," a story she wrote in the form of a mother’s sole, complicated, but loving voice, speaking a "How to" litany of advice ranging from domestic chores to what a daughter, an immigrant and young woman of color, must do to protect herself in a world that was not designed by or for her. This is how joy, or its visage, at turns comforts, constricts, or becomes armor.
Exploring the expressivity within intense states of being, Latinx identity, and pluralistic sensibilities, Helado Negro's Private Energy is an engrossing statement achieved through lyrically personal and political avant pop music. Private Energy will be re-introduced to the public via RVNG Intl. in expanded form on May 5, 2017, appearing on vinyl for the first time alongside new CD and digital editions. Supplemented with three brand new "versions," this iteration of Private Energy will continue the strong narrative of Helado Negro's spectral opus.
Private Energy is the fifth album from Roberto Carlos Lange a.k.a. Helado Negro. Written and produced by Lange, the album is an interpersonal communication of sounds about his surroundings past, present, and future.
Private Energy, which follows 2013's Invisible Life and 2014's tour de force Double Youth, continues the work Lange has done as an artist, culminating in the most captivating artistic statement of his career. The music draws from his expansive knowledge of sampling, sound synthesis, recording and history of references, and the album was created as a performance piece in tandem with his Tinsel Mammal dancers. Present at each Helado Negro show, the Tinsel Mammal dancers, costumed head-to-toe in silver strands, are a visual representation of sound and a sensual gateway to profoundly personal lyrics. The Tinsel Mammals are not representative of any human form. They work as a shimmering objects that represent the ideas of genderless and raceless beings and Private Energy’s themes of self-love, pride, and the embrace of constant change.
Island Universe Story is a limited edition of clear, tinsel vinyl compilation of previously released Helado Negro cassette releases.
The previously released cassette EPs have been serving as a subnarrative behind the showcased broadcast of the fulllength release schedule. They are the subconscious whisperings, deep labyrinth of dot-connecting and cartography for the diligent listeners into the innerworkings.
Asthmatic Kitty Records is releasing particular iteration of Island Universe Story on limited edition clear vinyl, which has been stamped with the tinsel used in Helado Negro’s recent live performances.
Helado Negro recorded Double Youth, his fourth LP, in his home studio with a computer, his voice, and telepathic input from a poster he found buried in a closet in his childhood home. Seeing the poster evoked a sudden rush of memories, but also a sense of isolation and separation. Who was this person in the photo? And what else had Helado Negro forgotten? The poster's impact was so significant, it framed a new recording process for HeladoNegro and now serves as cover art, title, and the conceptual framework for the lyrics and song structures.
Helado Negro certainly owes something to his contemporaries, Bear in Heaven, Young Magic, Empress Of, Prefuse 73, and School of Seven Bells, but Double Youth is more a spiritual long lost cousin to the great masters of funk, like Parliament, Prince, and George Duke, whose finely tuned beats married the ear with the body in new ways. Bass drum machines in Double Youth pulse like a robot dance movement. Bass undercurrents fuzz. Sine waves tickle the brain stem. The melodies weave through the air like a fish. And Helado Negro's voice, which grows more and more confident with each record, is a cool, clean dance partner to the beat and melody.
Island Universe Story Three, out now, is the third in an ongoing series of EPs from Roberto Lange, a.k.a. Helado Negro. Not designed to "tease" or "build up to" or kill time between the Helado Negro albums, these releases shadow the LPs, moving darkly alongside them - and, like a shadow, may be more easily described by what they aren't than what they are.
They aren't outtakes or afterthoughts or byproducts or B-sides. These are fully filtered, distilled, unified recordings, chapters in a continuous narrative. They're less like the flipside of a record than they are like the dark side of the moon: always present but (until now) just out of sight. "It's a parallel to the continuum of the album," explains Lange. They're "something next to the albums, on kind of their own timeline," a second stream, offering an alternate glimpse into Helado Negro's ongoing process. Says Lange, "This is more of what I do. I'm really making music every day."
Press play on Invisible Life and you lose your season. Roberto Lange - Helado Negro - is talking to you in Spanish. He’s talking to you, perhaps with more volume, in the language he’s been teaching us all over the past three years through the lessons of the seductive full-length Canta Lechuza, the sub-narrative exploration EP Island Universe Story One, and the all-in collaboration,OMBRE, with Juliana Barwick. This immersive curriculum, paired with our own capacity for feeling, will make Invisible Life visible. At least as much Roberto Lange wants us to see of himself. Translate the name of that first song for the first clue: it illuminates you.
Jon Philpot, The Bear In Heaven frontman, is one of a key few contributions on the album, including more old friends like Eduardo Alonso (Feathers) and Matt Crum (Lange’s longtime bandmate in ROM), as well as kindred and vast spirit Devendra Banhart. Banhart’s guitar on “Arboles” multiplies the whispered dream of Helado Negro into technicolor parallel existences. Roberto Lange, the conductor, the man alone, has always kept his family close, even if its definition has expanded from his mother’s kitchen to the long-stretching road that sends him from one show to the next.
Canta Lechuza is an intimate, personal beast, a solo affair built lovingly from live instruments, percussion, and field recordings, all processed through electronics, computers, and synthesizers. It is an album with very defined songs, its song-structure has been labored over; choruses count bigtime, confident breakdowns and digi-pop bridges are all part and parcel of the greater good. Canta Lechuza is dance music turned inside out—percussion plipping and plapping, basslines smooth and dry as a tube of blue neon. Deep-space micro-drones emerge from hibernation, growling out from a wash of sun-filtered haze—morphing, squeezing, then bending themselves around globular droplets of blood-red electro.
Drawing from a rich variety of influences from the cradle to his crate digging years, Lange cites influences such as Funkadelic, DJ Premiere, South American 60's pop, Arthur Russell, Ecuadorean ballad singer Julio Jaramillo, and Adrian Sherwoods's production style in the early ON-U Sound releases. But when asked about his contemporaries, Roberto references all the players on the album, adding the names of visual artists David Ellis and Christian Marclay, two artists who use elements of DJ culture in their work. This is apropos when listening to the record, which it seems as if the songs have been sculpted or painted.