Don’t you just hate it when an artist comes around, the kind of artist who just leaves you in a state of mandatory-appreciation? –of awe? About three years ago, the Florida born musician Roberto Carlos Lange came under my radar with the name, Helado Negro, and his album at the time, Invisible Life. There was something very special about it. The culture surrounding Helado Negro pulsated with every little percussive beat –mixture of Latin-influence and Lange’s ethnic roots in Ecuador. At the same time, Helado Negro kept things crisp, minimal yet meaningful –just really superb.
For the past month I’ve had the honor of savoring Helado Negro’s latest release, Private Energy. Ultimately, not much has changed. Helado Negro is still kicking ass with some really gorgeous melodies and vocal lines that are irresistible. The music is great to kickback to and keep a nice mix of multi-lingual lyrics. The artist hasn’t backed down from his compositional decisions either. Private Energy abandons the busy-vibe that other electronic music often deals out and uses a slightly slimmer approach.
And so upon pressing that play button, we’re introduced to “Calienta.” The kneejerk to the opener is, “Yep, that’s Helado Negro.” The soft, low vocals are soothing with a husky outline –abstracting it from an almost ambient, drifting backing track. It’s serene and builds carefully. The addition of each instrumental voice is like the work of a master in a zen garden. There’s something immediately defusing and relaxing about it. Helado Negro brings you into Private Energy by slowly engulfing the listener into a cleanly composed, gorgeous, almost natural soundscape.
The next song, “Taramundo,” keeps it calm. Helado Negro only adds slight distortion to the mix as he warms those speakers up more. The half-way point is the signal, a piano key strikes, the song seems to politely suggest in a quiet tone, “You may want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the music now.” Assuming you comply, “Lengua Larga,” is the first track that screams Helado Negro. It’s so familiar and so fresh. A solid synth line paired with powerful vocals that up the ante quite a bit. There’s no cutting corners here and with the album really kicking off, you’ll be sucked right in.
The next few tracks came across like a dream, everything was strange and amazing. Most of Helado Negro’s music presents something festive, something emotional, a constant sincerity, and excellent composition that sets the mood just right. A few notable tunes drift by, “Transmission Listen,” is probably the least characteristic tune. For some reason the song almost comes across as Royksopp like. Perhaps it’s a lack of the Latin-influence. Somehow it still sticks though, and it’s still enjoyable enough. That being said, Helado Negro does venture away from the culture a bit but only so far that he allows for variability. For a moment, it left me yearning for what I recognized from Invisible Life, and yet I just couldn’t shake it. Private Energy was luring me in all the same.
Again, songs pass, and the album comes to an end. The entire experience is atmospheric and keeps your attention. The individual tracks matter less and less as Helado Negro takes you through this music journey. That isn’t to say that the songs don’t hold up on their own –just that Private Energy is stellar as an entire experience.
Of the favorites’ “Persona Facil” was emotional and solemn, full of depth without being too boisterous. The song really felt a bit humbling. The slowed down atmosphere works well for Helado Negro. Meanwhile, “Young, Latin, and Proud” broke into something personal and still sympathetically gorgeous. The song dances around identity and our ties to it, moreso the identity behind Helado Negro. Although Lange has never denied the Latino aspect of his music, I’m not sure it has ever come across with as much heart. Finally, the (almost) closing track, “We Don’t Have Time for That,” really capped things off perfectly. It’s a mix of baritone and falsetto –the soft voice behind Helado Negro paired with some carefully planned synthy lines and catchy percussion. It’s that same minimal but meaningful and the whole thing is alluring, danceable, relaxable, savorable, and perfect.
Helado Negro seems to have an infinite well of creativity –or at least a whole lot of heart to keep producing some amazing music. Private Energy is an excellent addition to the electronic, soundscape, pro-ambient, chilled out, Latin-inspired music library. In other words –you’d be doing a disservice to yourself by not giving Helado Negro’s latest a listen.