Island Universe Story Two, out now, is the second 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.”
But they aren’t exactly about that process, either. Two is underpinned by collaborations—the orchestral sound on the opening “Stop Living Dead,” for instance, was created with composer Trey Pollard and a double string quartet, and “Mitad del Mundo” features the talents of Wilco’s Mikael Jorgenson—but the Helado Negro project has never operated in a vacuum. From his headquarters in Brooklyn, Lange has always quick to point out the importance of other people, sometimes in other places, who have contributed to his music, and of the collaborative dynamic itself: some aspects of his process, says Lange, “are wildly free, and some of them are very structured and have a large amount of direction. It’s widely variable in terms of what freedoms are given and what control is taken.”
Ultimately, “I like the idea of process,” says Lange, “and then what happens on the other side, too. Both are important to me”—aesthetically satisfying product, as well as experimental process—and like any Helado Negro release, this latest chapter in the Island Universe Story delivers on both counts.
Preorder the cassette, due in late September, here.