FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Helado Negro

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“I think those moments when you’re finishing something and you’re sharing it with someone, I think that was my realization of something that I understood as what I wanted to do.”

 Roberto Carlos Lange

Words: Mark Carry

Helado Negro - Private Energy (Expanded) - Pic 001 - Credit -Anna Grothe Shive

Roberto Carlos Lange’s awe-inspiring musical project of Helado Negro reached (yet) another summit with his latest full-length ‘Private Energy’. A divine collection of deeply affecting avant pop music. Last month saw the eagerly awaited reissue of the Brooklyn-based artist’s seminal album – in an ‘expanded’ edition – via  the peerless New York imprint RVNG Intl (whom Lange previously collaborated with on the FRKWY series).

Lovingly assembled and packaged by the record label, the captivating pop spheres are similarly crafted and sculpted together with masterful detail and precision. The deeply heartfelt lyrics resonate powerfully at every turn amidst gorgeous synth layers and spectral production. The expanded version contains three sublime reworks of some of the record’s defining moments: ‘Young, Latin and Proud’(December Mix) is sumptuously de-constructed with echoes of reverb and an intoxicating slowed-down dubstep beat. Wah-wah effect pedals and hypnotic interstellar beats form the ideal foundations to the songwriter’s empowering message.

The achingly beautiful lament ‘Transmission Listen’ is a tear-stained love letter from the heart’s core: delicate woodwind and piano notes evokes the timeless sound of 60’s Brazilian tropicalia and Memphis soul. The immediacy and clarity of Lange’s voice is immediately striking akin to crystalline summer seas. The innate ability to merge electronic music and contemporary pop music is epitomised on ‘Runaround’; a deep soul groove and intricate string arrangement swims a majestic dance beneath an ocean bed of Lange’s meticulous songcraft: “No love can cut our knife in two”. Kindred spirits like LA-based songwriter Julia Holter, Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear and Julianna Barwick drift in the ether of the Florida-born musician’s enchanting song-cycles: at the intersection of latin, electronic and avant pop spheres and forever shining radiant light of prayer and hope.

‘Private Energy’ (Expanded) is available now on RVNG Intl.

https://www.facebook.com/rvngintl

https://www.facebook.com/HeladoNegro/

Helado Negro - Private Energy (Expanded) - Pic 002 - Credit -Anna Grothe Shive

Interview with Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro).

 

It’s such a wonderful partnership between yourself and the RVNG label in repressing your very special Helado Negro album ‘Private Energy’. I wonder how was this experience for you when revisiting this record and looking it in a new way?

Roberto Carlos Lange: I had worked with RVNG in 2010/2011 on a project as part of the FRKWY series, so it was me and a bunch of people did it with David Van Tieghem. So, that was my introduction to working with them – I had been a big fan of RVNG before that – and seven years later now there’s this whole new in-depth knowledge of how thoughtful and careful and so much quality control. It was nice how just everything was taken care of – the remastering of it and the artwork – and just everything about the whole process was really special and a compliment to the music (or vice versa).

I love how there’s a few new remixes and reworks included in the expanded version of ‘Private Energy’. I’d love for you to talk me through these new versions?

 RCL: Yeah, that was super unique. The way some of this record was put together, there were so many different live shows prior to finishing the record so I would grab chunks from the live show and edit them and manipulate them to work within the studio versions. So some of that shines a little bit more and peaks out in those three alternate versions that are on the expanded edition.

I’d love to know more about how you craft these songs because you’re developing and evolving all the time with all these releases, there’s just so much intricacies and detail involved musically and lyrically.

RCL: It’s definitely stacked vertically and I think about music and sound a lot like that; like how many layers can I go down or go up, in the vertical sense as opposed to like when is the end of the song coming. That’s part of the process I think where all the layers are intertwined. I keep stealing things that are improvisations with my sampler or my synthesizers or things that are on my computer and also people playing in real-time and also recordings that I do at a residency or a performance or at a rehearsal and just taking all of these snippets and being able to assemble them as moments of times of process and progress like finishing the record or finishing a song or finishing an idea.

An important part of the album is the incredible ‘Young, Latin and Proud’ – it’s almost an anthem really – so many of these songs are like these perfect pop songs with real depth and emotion inside.

RCL: I appreciate music that is committed to these realms whether it’s pop music or something that is committed to extended technique with an instrument and somebody commits their life to that and I appreciate all that kind of music on both ends of the spectrum. So, for me it’s what makes me up when I try to portray with my own version of me, which I think shines through with ‘Young, Latin and Proud’ where I’m talking a lot about myself mostly and how much I want to reflect that outwards or have people reflect that with me through them.

The album was initially made to accompany a dance performance, which I didn’t realize at the time?

RCL: It was parallel for sure, there were so many different things happening to be honest with you. One of the things that was a big aspect of what informed the record were these costumes that were made to accompany me onstage and after working with them for about a year, they obviously liked the visual aspect that informed a lot of what I did musically and what I wanted to do onstage with them. So there was a series of shows that I was commissioned to do in a few different museums and it was specifically ‘Private Energy’ with choreography with the costumes.

The way you’re involved with so many different mediums and the different contexts your music is created for like performances, installations and so on, when you release a new selection of songs it must all feed into one another?

RCL: It’s funny it’s like everything ends up evolving or like I work on a piece of  music and I end up making so many iterations of the same thing, I think it’s exciting and fun to do that. Everything is like an extension of each other; I look at it more as that than it being like the music is over once the record is out. There’s always a chance for it to evolve into something else with other things.

Collaboration is of course something you’re continually involved in. One of my favourites was the wonderful Ombre project with Julianna Barwick, which was such a beautiful release.

RCL: That was one of my favourites as well. I think we started that in 2010 and it came out in 2012. That was such a special project; she’s a super close friend of mine. I toured once in the UK and at the time I was selling some of those LPs on the road and people in the UK specifically were like ‘Oh wow, you work on this; that’s you… that’s awesome man’ [laughs]. It was cool because a lot of different people know about it and a lot of people don’t know about it, it’s interesting when people discover it as well.

Since you moved to New York several years ago, I wonder just how much of an inspiration is the city on you?

RCL: Being here for about eleven years now. I moved actually from Florida to Savannah Georgia to Atalanta and then back to Florida and then back. So prior to New York I was in Atalanta. It’s a special place and every day there’s not a moment where you’re not feeling stimulated somehow; there’s so much going on whether you’re just going to the corner to get milk or you’re out running errands trying to meet people or trying to do something. There’s definitely like this hyper extreme like sensory push and pull, you’re seeing all types of things. And especially right now where it’s transitioning from spring to summer – or whatever is happening right now with the weather – you see just like the trees are stretching out and the sidewalks are getting super crowded and everything is getting louder and more bustling you know.

I wonder what ideas may you have right now for your next release or projects? I can imagine you must have several different things coming together at the same time?

RCL: It’s interesting because right now it feels like there’s a rebirth for this record and to continue sharing it with people, so that’s really nice to have that for something to occupy your time as I’m still exploring what I want to do. I’m recording a bunch of ideas right now and I’m feeling everything out but I’m not in a rush to finish anything at this moment, I feel really inspired but I don’t feel pressure in any way. I think that’s also a result of working with RVNG and seeing and feeling what they’re doing; the way they’ve been able to work with me on this project. It’s nice to feel there is a little bit of air to just move around.

For your musical project of Helado Negro, were there certain albums or defining moments – perhaps when growing up –that happened for you to lead you on your particular music path?

RCL: I think the moment where I started to take it really seriously was in college and I was really alone, experimenting on my own and figuring out how to manipulate sound and realize that I was making songs. And in a non-traditional sense where I wasn’t really learning music, I was messing around with the computer and that sampler that I have. I think those moments when you’re finishing something and you’re sharing it with someone, I think that was my realization of something that I understood as what I wanted to do. I think it’s like both those processes, creating and sharing of being like the feeling of this is what I want to do. I do think there are a lot of people who do create and I do think a lot of people don’t want to share and I think there is that level of commitment of being able to participate and have people participate in what you’re doing as well.

You’ve been touring extensively around the world as well, you must learn so much about your songs and your music by going to all these venues and playing shows where you gather all these different versions and variations of your songs. It must be a great source of learning in one way?

RCL: Yeah it’s frightening for sure because there’s so many times where it goes really well and there’s so many times where you’re like this is awkward or uncomfortable in the past. I definitely think it’s morphed and changed enough where I don’t feel out of control; I feel like I have opened up enough to know that the things that happen that aren’t exactly how I planned are the things that I appreciate the most, taking those moments and building on that. A friend of mine who plays a lot of improvisational music told me like one of the rules they had was you mess up, you do it three times after that. So, it sounds intentional regardless of what it is and there’s something I appreciate about that, like owning the mistake until it turns into something that you want, it’s pretty exciting.

‘Mi Mano’ is probably one of my favourite tracks from ‘Private Energy’ at the moment. It really shows the interwoven layers and masterful production that’s on display across the album, I don’t know how you do it.

RCL: Awesome, well neither do I [laughs]. I’m glad you dig it, yeah it’s one of my favourite jams too. That song is actually a really good example of the idea of error. That song was originally a much faster tempo and I accidentally slowed it down significantly because I was doing something else for a second but I ended up changing the BPM. When I played it back, I was like what is going on and I couldn’t figure out what had happened for a good couple of minutes and I just loved it that way and it stuck like that.

Have you been listening to any albums lately, Roberto?

RCL: I just made a playlist of stuff that I’ve been listening to, I realized that’s my best solution around this question because throughout the years it’s been the question that haunts me [laughs]. I made a playlist of a bunch of ambient jams that I really dig and something that I’ve been listening to a lot was this Gigi Masin record with George Hayward. There’s this band that I heard on the road, they’re called Sneaks and it’s a duo (a bass player and a drummer) and the woman who plays bass is pretty awesome actually, I dig their tunes. What else has been in my ears? There’s also this Ecuadorian cumbia organ synthesizer player from the 50’s and 60’s that I’ve been listening to a lot and his name is really hard to spell [laughs].

‘Private Energy’ (Expanded) is available now on RVNG Intl.

https://www.facebook.com/rvngintl

https://www.facebook.com/HeladoNegro/

 

 

 

Written by admin

May 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

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