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Helado Negro – Invisible Life

on March 19, 2013, 12:01am
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Since his last release as Helado Negro, 2011’s Canta Lechuza, Roberto Lange has worked in straight electronic beats as Epstein and produced smoky dream pop in a duo with Julianna Barwick called Ombre. While his earlier compositions rode the crest of the chillwave buzz, his new disc shows the effects of that diverse interlude. On Invisible Life, pop structures, hip-hop beats, sleepwalking synths, and Latin percussion percolate into one sensual, psychedelic dance party.

Portions of Invisible Life come off like a tropical take on Toro Y Moi, or an electrified look at Caetano Veloso. Lange’s early albums never lacked for emotive production, but these new songs take a major step forward in the hook department. The steel drum synths, haunted vocals, and sub-bass boom of “Dance Ghost” flirt breezily, but Lange’s cooed repetitions that “there’s no one home” hit the nail right on the head. The brief “Catastrophe” wobbles in, the description of uncertain desire playing off of the wonky synths.

The syncopated “Arboles” offers a counterpoint to the predominantly over-smooth compositions, the air left between its staccato punches filled at times by female backing vocals or astral pinwheels. Liner notes indicate that Devendra Banhart contributes guitar to the track, though guitar is all but undetectable in the stirring, whisper-soft track. Later, the slippery chord fades and popcorn beat of “Cuantas” push Lange’s electro-pop into an edgier place.

The album suffers from an overload on watery reverb and muted synths, everything buffed and shellacked into a unified plane. At best, Lange delivers a sultry, disco-tinged set of loops, as on angelic album closer “Catch That Pain”. The album’s middle stagnates some, but even at its least focused, Invisible Life is a pleasant experience, Lange’s downy production floating by like a pastel cloud.

Essential Tracks: “Dance Ghost”, “Arboles”

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