The confessional, artsy electronic songs on Helado Negro’s first six records have always struck deep chords in me. Born Roberto Carlos Lange, the second-generation Ecuadorian American uses subtle musical metaphors to share mixed sentiments stemming from his Latinx heritage—hope, anxiety, and pride, in almost equal measure. On his latest album, Far In (4AD), which comes after 2019’s This Is How You Smile, Lange revisits these themes over the course of 15 tunes that turn from ethereal to upbeat and danceable and back, and as always his personal reflections shed light on something universal. On this record he drives home the possibilities of sustenance during lockdown and finding true escape by turning inward through honeyed vocals embraced by gently funky bass lines, luminous touches of synth, and propulsive drum tracks. As usual, his songs welcome multiple readings: “La Naranja” (“The Orange”) references the oranges that were so ubiquitous around Lange’s childhood home in Florida that they seemed to be in endless supply and often were casually wasted. The lyrics carry a delicious ambiguity—Lange could be just as easily referring to the sweet intimacy between lovers enclosed in their own private world of blossoming romance or physically confined together in lockdown. The tune opens with long, floating violin tones that return to punctuate its bustling arrangement, and over a sweet bass line Lange marvels at the potential of human connection and the ultimate pandemic lessons: “Tú y yo, podemos cambiar todo / Tú y yo, sobreviviremos esto” (“You and I, we can change everything / You and I, we will survive this”).
Helado Negro’s Far In is available on Bandcamp.