September 2nd, 2014 , by John Beeler
Yes, Helado Negro is one of the kids on the cover of his new album, Double Youth. But he won’t say which one. A long-forgotten photo dug out of a childhood closet, this mysterious image encapsulates the themes of his latest record, released today: the duality and ambiguity of memory, identity, and self.
He communicates them with language, through the ambiguity of his lyrical content, the duality of his bilingualism, and even through a gentle warping of grammar itself: what Helado Negro, a.k.a. Roberto Lange, calls the “confused consciousness” of the opening track—”Are I Here”—is right there in the title, as the words’ refusal to agree with each other manages to be at once technically incorrect and oddly appropriate.
And perhaps more importantly, he communicates it in the rich dualities and ambiguities of the music itself. His arrangements are replete with fuzzy basslines, blurry beats, and a haze of dreamy vocals, but organized with tautly syncopated grooves and focused songcraft. Through the nuanced layering of spare, but discreetly nuanced elements, he creates something vastly more textured and complex than the sum of its parts.
Double Youth arrives in a plethora of formats: CD, digital download, black LP, limited edition translucent blue LP, and an even more limited VIP edition of 100 translucent blue LPs sleeves decorated by hand—complete with those two enigmatic youths, printed on photo paper, plus more hand-made surprises inside.
Buy it here.
May 27th, 2014 , by John Beeler
If Chris Schlarb’s new solo album feels like a moment’s rest—a brief retreat, a meditation in solitude—that might be because this is exactly how the album was recorded.
The story of the making of Making the Saint, out today on Asthmatic Kitty Records, is ultimately simple: Chris Schlarb needed a break. As the composer and bandleader of the Psychic Temple project, Schlarb has lately been demonstrating his auteur-like ability to put into place all the details of an intricate musical tableau. Last year’s Psychic Temple II LP set idiosyncratic pop tunes and more abstract musical explorations in highly complex arrangements, and accordingly the ensembles Schlarb brought out to support it were some of the biggest he’d ever wrangled.
After all of that, he felt the need to do something a little more intimate. He gathered up his instruments and headed by himself to a 19th-century cabin in the dusty San Bernardino Mountains, where he proceeded to lay down the tracks that would become Making the Saint.
A four-track, full-length album, Making the Saint is in its own way as ambitious as Schlarb’s recent Psychic Temple work. But this time, the grandeur is less in the layers of musical detail than in the expansive explorations of deep, interior spaces. The album’s two short, bona fide “songs,” the mystical ballad “The Great Receiver” and the jazz standard “My Foolish Heart,” are generous in their own, quiet way—”My Foolish Heart” looks for the sophistication in simplicity, and the negative space of “The Great Receiver” hum with cosmic ambience.
But these tracks alternate with yet more probing meditations, seemingly free-floating improvisations anchored deep down by musical stasis: the overtone-rich, iridescent drone of the opening title track, or the slowly looping, ruminating harmonies of “The Fear of Death Is the Birth of God.” Making the Saint finds freedom in simplicity and, in the emotional and spiritual resonances it evokes, turns out to be not quite so simple after all.
Making the Saint is now available to own as a digital download, on CD, or on an LP record, pressed to white vinyl.
Buy it here.
LA-based Imma Almourzaeva illustrates “The Great Receiver” from Chris Schlarb’s LP Making the Saint. Watch below.
March 5th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Invisible Life, the third full-length from Helado Negro, is available today. Purchasing options are here.
Heather Phares at AllMusic wrote that “It’s the hypnotic pull of even [Helado Negro's] simplest songs, like the lonely and lovely ‘Dance Ghost,’ that makes his music special. Invisible Life reaffirms that Lange can keep that quality, regardless of which direction he takes Helado Negro in next.”
You might also want to watch this video of Roberto of Helado Negro working with Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen to create a brand new song. See below or over on Shaking Through.
August 21st, 2012 , by John Beeler
On one hand, you have lush, verdant-voiced Julianna Barwick, whose AK-release The Magic Place garnered a slot on the BBC’s list of top 2011 albums. On the other, there’s AK artist Roberto Carlos Lange, AKA Helado Negro, the Latin-influenced kinetic sound sculptor who’s collaborated with the likes of David Ellis and Prefuse 73.
Bring the pair together and you get OMBRE, whose anticipated debut release Believe You Me is out today. The ten track album meshes Barwick’s ambient, angelic vocals with Helado Negro’s warm-hearted, urban psyche folk.
The labelmates sparked a friendship after touring together in 2010 and opted to give recording a go at Helado Negro’s studio Island Universe Space. After kicking around riffs and vocal snippets, OMBRE began laying down tracks. The result? Believe You Me, spanning from bare-boned space melodies to indulgent, infectious soundscapes. The recording is a series of connected dots carved out of seemingly contrasting musical styles resulting in something altogether fresh and new.
The BBC says of Believe You Me, “Sultry summer nights following somnolent summer days, you’ve just found your new soundtrack.” Best order a copy now – do so by clicking here. September is coming soon.
June 13th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, the Welcome Wagon’s second album, is out today! The follow-up full length to their 2008 debut, Presbyterian minister Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique present a brand new collection of folk-infused gospel gems.
Precious Remedies was recorded over the course of a work week in an old Brooklyn rectory. The tracks were produced by Alexander Foote and feature musical contributions from friends, including Foote and Sufjan Stevens. Spanning from sweet to transcendent, the record is the perfect summer soundtrack for lazy afternoons and back porch gatherings.
Above is a fantastically filmed video of a rehearsal of “Remedy,” a David Crowder cover. Friends of the Welcome Wagon Alex and Aaron Craig do the honors.
You can help yourself to some Precious Remedies on CD, LP, or MP3 by clicking here.