Helado Negro : Phasor

Helado Negro Phasor review

Engaging in a new Helado Negro project, or concert for that matter, is like an appraisal with your cardiologist. It’s a check-in with your heart: How’s it doing? Are you connecting with the world? Are you connecting with yourself? These things that seem tiny, yet they ask the heavy, yet simple questions that cross math, science and emotional boundaries. Roberto Carlos Lange’s cool, breezy lines float out, in English and Spanish, with ease. And then find a way to pound your heart, tinkering with the inner workings.

On 2021’s double album and debut record for 4AD Records, Far In, Lange used a saying from Laraaji, a philosophical new-age artist that he admires—”Escape is never out there, you have to go inward”—as inspiration for the project’s title. On its standout track “Outside The Outside,” a dancefloor pop mixture, Lange created a hyperrealistic music video where a family is dancing at what seems like a Friday night gathering, where you can see all the personalities within a brood when everyone feels safe. Aligned in the warm clutches of togetherness.

It transported me back to being a youngster, watching aunts, uncles, and cousins dancing on a weekend night, blowing off steam. Enjoying simple things yet essential bonds gives life that good good stuff that you treasure so much more later on. The power, tenderness, and protection of the family. It shook me with the question: Are those souls, who have passed on, still dancing out on that other plane? If I could speak with them, in that dancing moment, what would they say to me? 

When I’ve interviewed Lange, he spoke of growing up listening to dance music on the radio. Strafe’s “Set It Off” is one song from his upbringing that takes him back. It’s a jam that gets everyone open, letting folks drop their guard. Lange’s career calling card. Phasor, his eighth full-length Helado Negro album, gets to that answer. Where Far In was about contemplating those family gatherings to pass the time while in quarantine, Phasor is thankful in sound and lyric for, again, what seems like a tiny function but is paramount to your essence: Smelling the grass, getting nourished up by the sun and the good vibes that come with it. That warmth rides through the nine-song communique.

As it has been well documented, the catalyst for Phasor came from Lange, who on his 39th birthday in 2019, visited for five hours with Salvatore Matirano’s Sal-Mar machine at the University of Illinois. This mechanized instrument that Lange (of course) found humanity in, is a complex synthesizer that creates music generativity with a vintage supercomputer brain and analog oscillators. It creates numerous possibilities in sound sequences. This experience gave Lange more options, more opportunities, to tell stories by and from his own heart, making Phasor that much more of a remarkable piece of orchestration.

The sonic introduction and album opener, “LFO,” or Lupe Finds Oliveros, is a testimonial to electronic composition icon Pauline Oliveros, a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 1960s, and Lupe Lopez, an original wiring technician for Fender amplifiers, referred to as “the goddess of soldering.” It sets a tone of timelessness where you do hear traditions, bouncing out there, those aforementioned souls, swaying in the arrangements.

Coming back to earth; what “Gemini & Leo” was in 2021, the most incredible pop song from that year with its overflowing positivity, Lange recaptures with “I Just Want to Wake Up With You,” which celebrates the joy of life with the partner you want, and how each day is not just a blessing but bliss. It’s Lovers Rock—personal and intimate. Forever doing that good tap on your ticker. Rhythmic moonscapes that give “Colores Del Mar” its dreamy flow with non-stop breakbeat breakdowns are the emotional science fiction Lange is forever entertained by and compelled to make these abstract, Mort Garson narratives, swirling about. The vivacious mood, embellished with mallet hits and Moog vibrations gives off those nonchalant Antônio Carlos Jobim crosscurrents. 

I’m unsure if I’ll be able to attend this tour, this time around, but if I do, I’ll keep some Kleenex in my pocket, cause I’m sure to see those souls, I witnessed dancing on those weekends growing up, swaying up in Lange’s troposphere, reminding me to treasure each day I have air in my lungs.

Label: 4AD

Year: 2024

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Helado Negro Phasor review

Helado Negro : Phasor

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