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Helado Negro, aka Roberto Lange, 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 after cleaning out a closet 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 Lange forgotten? The poster’s impact was so significant it framed a new recording process for Helado Negro and now serves as cover art, title, and the conceptual framework for the lyrics and song structures.
Helado Negro owes something to his contemporaries (Chancha Via Circuito, Matias Aguayo, Juana Molina, Bear in Heaven, 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. The album’s bass undercurrents fuzz, its sine waves tickle the brain stem, its melodies weave through the air like a fish. And Lange’s voice, which grows more and more confident with each record, is a cool, clean dance partner to the thump of the beat and the hum of the melody.
The first single from the record, “I Krill You,” is bathed in an authentic, honest and climatic serene feel. It steadily moves from whimsical electronic mid-tempo swirled with synth-looped beats to an amalgamation of sounds unraveling layers of rich textures, altogether coupled with Lange’s soulful vocals. It is amongst the most intimate and emotive songs Helado Negro has produced.
Throughout the album are beautiful musical arrangements of the voice as instrument, and that includes Lange’s Atlanta-based friend Adron, who has been a continual guest throughout his recordings. Adron makes a prominent appearance on the song “Myself On 2 U” which Lange describes as “a song about sleeping with my wife and pushing her over to her side of the bed when she crowds me.” The song is built around combining the sound of a classic Latin American bolero and a slowed down morphed version of Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life.”
Staying loyal to his hybrid cultural identity, son of Ecuadorian immigrants, Lange oscillates lyrics from English to Spanish. Once again, like his past works, Lange creates a statement by eradicating barriers of communication and language and allowing the listener to be genuinely captivated by a boundless experience and universal feeling – music.
The constant denominator of Double Youth is its extraction of music from an intangible space and migrating it to a physical realm. It’s an album without a façade or a hidden message; it’s honest and sincere, exhibited in Lange’s vocals, which are now more present and exposed than before. The album sounds like Lange is slowly lifting a veil and allowing us, the listeners, to be part of his world, the all-embracing atmosphere of Double Youth.
Recorded at his home studio, the album conveys a warm intimacy. Double Youth Lange welcoming us into his home and personal space to hear his thoughts and secrets, to be aware of his surroundings. And by allowing us to enter, we understand what is created in the mind of an innovator. He offers everything; nothing more is required but music and the listener.