Helado Negro, the Latin musician turned into an emblem of modernity in the US


From far-in, New York Times He said that "it is full of heavenly lullabies capable of confronting earthly anguish." Because the new album black ice cream, present in all the inevitable lists of the best of the past year, is exactly that: the best soundtrack to self-exile from everything and everyone. An album that the artist composed, paradoxes of life, in the strictest of confinements.

The musician and his partner, the artist Kristy Sword –also a partner in musical projects– traveled to Marfa, Texas (in the purest American West) to enjoy an artist residency at Ballroom Marfa, a museum of contemporary art planted in the middle of the desert. A museum committed to young artists and famous, among other things, for setting up the 'lynchian' project Prada Marfa of the artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset, a Prada boutique full of luxury goods located on an empty road. What was going to be two weeks for the Lange-Sword couple turned into six months: the pandemic caught them in the middle of the desert and they experienced what confinement was in the broadest sense of the word.

"Actually it was lucky" says the artist. “We took the opportunity to work on Kristi and my project, Kite Symphonyand in the songs that I already had for far-in. The desert is a very beautiful thing. There are many ideas floating around and at the same time there is nothing. It gives you a space full of things to look at and see the details. In the apartment there were scorpions and snakes… And that sky with the clouds that change all the time. That part of the world is dark sky protected [zonas en las que apenas hay contaminación lumínica artificial]. A place where you can look far away, towards nothing, it seems that you can grab the stars".

But that location and that sky also had their price. "Marfa is in a little corner, near the border –continues the artist–. The closest thing is Step, more than five hours. There is no hospital, there is nothing. If something happens to you there, you have to take a helicopter or a private plane… That fear in your head seeing what was happening was there all the time. It is also true that no one came, so we were the only outsiders [Risas]. But yes, it was an experience that hit me.” So much so that around brooklyn "We didn't know how to re-enter a world that had already changed." The consequences were immediate: it didn't take long for them to move to a smaller place where they currently reside: Ashvillein North Carolina.

Ecuador vs. USA

But who is Black Ice Cream? Under the enigmatic alias hides Robert Charles Lange (Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1980). The name comes, as the musician has told a thousand times, from a friend who, listening to his songs, told him that his music was the soundtrack of a country that does not exist, just as black ice cream would be the food of a non-existent nation. An image that defines very well that element of unreal and volatile culture that runs through Lange's compositions. Although there are now black ice creams (of what not?) it was not the case when Lange undertook the adventure back in 2009. “In the last show of the first tour I did, a friend made a black sesame ice cream. It was something very cool. The first time we actually went Black Ice Cream!” remember her.

The son of Ecuadorian immigrants, Lange has managed to carve out a niche for himself in the industry without any strategy. "The strategy thing is not going very well for me," he says, smiling. “I've always wanted to make music, but making it and sharing it are two different things. I have a lot of music composed that I have not shared. For me it is a private world in which to exist. Of course now I feel that I have the advantage of having a record label and that I can pay the rent with that. But my world has not changed. I haven't searched for anything. I need money, of course, but I'm not looking for it. Many in the industry are constantly looking for ways to make money. That has never been my strong point.”

Uploaded to that enviable Caribbean cadence, and after the surprise that the wonderful This is How You Smile (2019), Lange has managed to sign for the prestigious label 4AD, sharing a catalog with some of the independent saints of yesterday and today. Artists like Ariel Pink, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Pixies, Bon Iver or Grimes. “I have always worked with very small labels and the experience with 4AD is something else… They support me a lot and the process of the album has been precious. They are fans but they have also worked as collaborators and that has been great.” Bill ed horrox4AD executive, that the response from listeners to Lange's arrival at the label was overwhelming: they proclaimed him their favorite artist.

Andean folklore and 'italo disco

Lange's connection with music and the organic way he approaches it goes back a long way. “When I was young my parents had meetings, something typical of Latin America, in which people came, ate, drank and danced. All that mixture that occurs in Florida of Latin and Caribbean cultures is very interesting. Hence also that exquisite and delicate mixed bag that is Lange's music, in which a little of everything fits (pop, electronica, some bossa, jazz, hip hop, funky rhythms...), but everything is harmonious and organically arranged. . “Sure, in my house we listened to dance music, from the Caribbean, but then we sang folk music. All this against the background of what was in Florida in the eighties: disco stuff, miamibass, italian disco, free style…”.

Interestingly or not –his songs are still soundscapes–, Lange has visual training and it wasn't until high school, when his brother returned from university with a computer, that he began to experiment with sounds and noises. "The first thing I did, with the vindictive seal Beta Winerythey were more roll beats, instrumental”. So much so that in 2004 she was in the Dream under the name of Boom & Birds.

But if there is something that has always characterized Lange's music, it is his political commitment. From those beginnings at Beta Bodega (defined as an “experimental electronic record label with a left-wing political stance based in Miami”) to their famous and viral song Young, Latin and Proud ("young, Latino and proud"), Lange has always made a show of fighting to make the Latino scene visible. One of the reasons why he mixes English with Spanish on his records.

This year, at last, he will be in Barcelona at Primavera Sound, as part of an extensive tour in which once again –as happened in the previous one– there will be three on stage. “This time, bass and drums. Unlike the shows from the previous tour that were calmer, these will be more moved, with a lot of energy, trying to get rid of all those anxieties and not think too much. Just feel." Definitely trying, as he sings on the catchy single The Orangeto stop time.



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