Helado Negro: Everything to Music

By Hans Morgenstern

For Roberto Carlos Lange, a.k.a. Helado Negro, the future is now. 

His sophisticated mix of electronica and soulful musicality comes from a diverse education and absorbing a blended culture through osmosis, all of which began in South Florida. 

“We're at a point where if you’re living in the United States, you have access to anything at any point, all the time,” Lange says. 

“I mean, depending on if you’re an undocumented person in the United States, you’re obviously limited. But if you are a person -- depending on your economic situation, too -- you can do those little things like walking around seeing, eating, listening. There is such an ease to understand and see the world here that it’s like kinda crazy. I think people don’t notice now that we’re completely surrounded by everything.”

Indeed, it was a mix of everything that brought Lange to music. 

The producer/artist/singer/animator began his education with an interest in animation. He had an appreciation for Norman McLaren’s mid-20th century work. He also learned about musique concrète while attending art school in Savannah, GA. 

Between that and his experience being born to Ecuadorian parents and growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Lange grew into his own while living in Brooklyn where he created his solo project, Helado Negro. He reflects back to the mid-90s when considering the roots of his sound, which so far includes nine full-length works on Asthmatic Kitty Records with a 10th on the way. 

“I think around that time I got DJ Shadow's Endtroducing, and I think that was like a gateway for a lot of people to understand that production. Instrumental music was its own thing. I think there was definitely a first of a specific kind of music, especially in Miami, in Atlanta, and New York; you could stem all these things from that.”

He says it was around that time he realized hip-hop was more than rhyming lyrics over beats. It was about nuanced production that packed surprises. 

“It’s not technically something crazy but a very good feeling,” he says. 

“I was surrounded by a lot of people who were making music that weren’t formally trained in any kind of way and were approaching it in a way that was intuitive, which ended up being more like in the vein of hip-hop production, which is just finding sounds and arranging them for a feeling.”


Helado Negro performing with his tinsel mammals on KEXP [Courtesy of KEXP/YouTube.com]

Rounding out the Helado Negro experience is a stage show featuring dancers covered in tinsel strands. He began using them in 2014 and calls them “tinsel mammals.” Beyond being a play on mirrors with the flow of dance, they’re a practical construct that allows local dancers to be involved in his touring act. 

“More than anything, they’re my band,” he notes. “It gives me a chance to interface with dancers, just other people in different towns. It gives it a local connection to some of these places I’m able to pass through and visit, [as] I source professional dancers in each city.”

To Lange, “interfacing” with people and the multicultural world that influences them is key to his creativity, and he hopes it inspires others, even if they don’t care for his brand of music. 

“More so than anything,” he admits, “I want to interface with people that want to learn and know more.” 

“I think that creates the platform for other people who may not even like my music, who may be brown, who may be young and they listen to my shit and say, ‘Man, that’s whack. I want to do something different. That dude’s not representing me,’ and I’m fine with that. I think that’s kinda great, but I think it puts all of us on equal terms here.”

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Helado Negro performs at New Frequencies at McColl Center on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. High Cube opens the show. Advance tickets available.
New Frequencies at McColl Center is supported by Chuck Barger & The Common Market.