The artist Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) made a very big impression on me when I first experienced him almost eight years ago. It was a sound I had never quite heard, and I was immediately drawn in; there were layers of synths, percussion that percolated rather than pulsed, vocals that epitomized the world ethereal and lyrics in Spanish and English that floated amidst the music like wisps of smoke.
I caught his live show in Mexico City and in Austin, Texas and each time the spectacle of theater and elaborate presentation were just as important as the music (including two dancers covered in what can best be described as Christmas tree tinsel).
But that's not what you're getting here — instead of tinsel, we get Roberto standing behind Bob Boilen's desk in a t-shirt that says "Young, Latin and Proud," the title of his most recent single. That's the essence of the songs he chose to play (and really, his entire catalog), music about being a young American with Ecuadorian parents, singing about life in here in the U.S.
Our little concert here also shows off an acoustic treatment of Helado Negro's vision, and it's just as compelling without the electronics. In fact, it's as if the songs reveal a different aspect of themselves, the lyrics intimate and laid bare. Personally, I loved the sound of the alto and tenor saxophones playing harmonies in place of a bank of keyboards. As you'll see, the entire band perfected that delicate balance of intensity and low volume, letting the music and ideas breathe.
This performance was a long time in the making, but the payoff is clear, presenting an artist in full command of his craft.
Private Energy is available now. (iTunes) (Amazon)
- "Transmission Listen"
- "Young, Latin and Proud"
- "Run Around"
- "It's My Brown Skin"
Roberto Lange (vocals, guitar); Nathaniel Morgan (sax); Angela Morris (sax, violin); Ben Lanz (bass guitar); Weston Minissali (synthesizer); Jason Nazary (drums)
Producers: Felix Contreras, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Morgan Noelle Smith, Kara Frame; PA: CJ Riculan; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.
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