To use the term ‘new age,’ to describe the sonic identity that Roberto Carlos Lange, AKA Helado Negro, has crafted over the course of his decade long career may not be without reason. Neither would it be so to suggest that his influence on the sound and direction of contemporary pyshcrock and indietroncia has been significant. Over the course of this career, Lange has slowly fine tuned his formula, finding sound somewhere between the ethereal folk sounds of his Ecuadorian heritage and the indie hipsterdom of his Brooklyn/Florida roots. The result is a languid, almost whispered sort of synth-funk whose aftershock can be felt in acts like DARKSIDE or Suzanne Kraft. Eternally laidback, Helado Negro’s music is laced with sunny acoustic guitar plucks and dubby electronics over he which he coos lyrics in both Spanish and English as if telling a campfire story. As such, his discography is a space where tracks like the softly sung Runaround from 2016’s Private Energy find themselves amongst psychedelic abstract electronica as on 2018’s Island Universe Story Four.
Lange’s latest album Far In on 4AD is remarkably laidback, to the point that it could very well be a contemplation on the beauty of slowing down. Because the music here is incredibly beautiful; celestial, deeply intimate and well, contemplative. It makes sense that he should be in this sort of space. Following 2019’s acclaimed This Is How You Smile, an expansive tour followed by the onset of the pandemic left Lange feeling a bit empty and displaced. His mind turned inward, and so Far In presents us with what he called on Twitter “mind meanderings drawn in sound.” Subsequently Far In finds itself exploring these various facets or meanderings across it’s bulky fifteen track runtime, from the late summer afternoon daydream of Wind Conversations to the minimal disco shuffle of Outside the Outside. The latter is one of only two dance tracks on Far In alongside the starry, punchdrunk Gemini and Leo and like its name may suggest, plays out as if watching the dancefloor from behind a sheet of glass.
Most of Far In is invested in careful, meditative musings on the seemingly mundane or random experiences of daily life, sometimes taking shape as long-stretched phrases of ambient sound before drawing back the curtains to let in the beams of Lange’s voice. These moments are some of the most intriguing explorations into Lange’s “mind meanderings,” such as the gorgeous and delicate Aguas Frías or album closer Mirror Talk on which a squiggly modular synth suddenly interpolates the experience of sunlight radiating off a looking glass as you stare at your own reflection. The majority of the album’s runtime is given to mellow and airy compositions, carefully treading along the feather-light pulse of Jason Trammell’s percussion.
For Lange, Far In is a record that marks an attempt to reconnect with his psyche. Like a quiet form of personal therapy, Far In is the means by which Lange has processed the anxieties of the past two years. That he arrives at these sorts of consoling lullabies is reassuring; a gentle reminder that self-care can open the shutters to sunlight if you allow it. While it’s not groundbreaking in the scope of his artistry, in a sense it is for Lange the human. Whatever grows from this point on will be the result of the healing diarised in the poetry of these songs, and by sharing this newfound sense of introspection with the world we’re invited to heal alongside him.