On Island Universe Story Four, Helado Negro Peels Back the Curtains of the Artist’s Mind

On Island Universe Story Four, Helado Negro Peels Back the Curtains of the Artist’s Mind

Helado Negro
Island Universe Story Four
Entrancing and multi-faceted
Lange switches his musical dial across this record, diving headfirst into new sounds and ideas.
- Hamilton Armit

Island Universe Story Four is a bit of a mouthful, but these fantasy elements are what makes some of Helado Negro’s music so entrancing. Helado Negro is the name of Brooklyn musician Roberto Carlos Lange’s most well-known musical project. The music he makes under this alias for the most part evades concrete description, but it seems to mostly lean toward a sort of ambient, tropical funk.

This new EP of his offers an inside look to his creative process. This intergalactic beat tape of sorts offers songs with vocals, but it’s mainly comprised of Helado Negro’s mind-bending instrumentals. As Lange said in one tweet, “This music is a way for me to continually spasm the algorithm thats trying to tell U who U are. U do U.”

The opener, “Come Be Me,” is more familiar territory for Lange. The bass rhythms and glittering synths shower this song in atmosphere as he sings about grappling with the end of a relationship. He relates his attempts to portray things as “all good,” saying, “You and me can make it forever / 'Cuz I can call you up / And you can say my name / 'Cuz I've been talking about you / To everyone so they know we're fine.” Everything about this track is enticing, from its infectious groove to Lange’s perceptive songwriting.

The vocal filters that Lange uses on “ECHO 2” have a similar summery haze to that of Neon Indian’s “Psychic Chasms.” This intergalactic rhythmic journey is layered with a calming ambience. The middle section of this EP hones in even more on Lange’s entrancing rhythms.

Songs like “Source One” and “Mist Universe” almost run together as the head-nodding qualities of this EP show themselves more prominently. The record in particular feels like a playground for sound, with rubbery rhythms and synth notes bouncing off of each other.

“Glow You” has very functional structure, almost a command to dance with its bass licks and disco callbacks. Some listeners may find Lange’s music a little too obtuse, with his heavy emphasis on drum tracks in this EP. It’s important, however, to keep in mind that what he intended for this record to showcase is a musical process, so it’s not as traditional in song structure.

It what feels like a take on the IDM sound, “QWERTY” is like a dance party in space, with its doppler sounds and droning tendencies.

Later highlights include “For a Time,” Who Knows” and “Guardar Our Are.” The first of these three, “For a Time” has a fantastic sound design. Lange incorporates muffled, static-filled rhythms in what feels like a pulsating oasis of sound. His music feels dense here, and its listener who gets to lift back and explore the different layers of it.

“Who Knows” is playful, with nice jazzy blips that add to the escalating melodic elements on this track in particular. Lange’s record feels like it’s oscillating, with its ambience and heady rhythms tossing the listener back and forth between solid earth and deep space.

“Guardar Are Our” has a decidedly soothing feeling too it. As Lange sings in Spanish, one feels bathed in sound and gentle rhythms. Like a cool afternoon, this song has a way of restoring peace.

The penultimate track, “Make Up Meditation,” encapsulates the EP’s themes well. It switches up abruptly between sounds and samples, going from what appears to be from an old radio song to people talking in a noisy restaurant. Lange switches his musical dial across this record, diving headfirst into new sounds and ideas. While this EP in particular may not be friendly to the casual listener, it definitely offers an intriguing look into Lange’s mind.