[CD Review] Helado Negro, 'Awe One' (Asthmatic Kitty)

Most musicians don’t have a background anywhere near as diverse as that of Brooklyn’s Robert Carlos Lange. Born in South Florida to Ecuadorian immigrants, Lange has collaborated with Guillermo Scott Herren in Prefuse 73 and Savath y Savalas, and also worked with the likes of School of Seven Bells and visual artist David Ellis. Beyond that, he’s wrangled beats under the name Epstein and indulged in squishy electronics as one-half of the duo ROM.

Lange’s latest project, Helado Negro, is perhaps his most prestigious, boasting an array of collaborators that includes Herren and members of Feathers, Bear In Heaven, Chicago Underground Trio and Stars Like Fleas. Marked by Lange’s light, malleable singing of Spanish lyrics, Awe One’s 11 tracks emerge as twitchy little collages built from live instrumentation, sampled records, loops and other sources.

It’s equal parts breezy and erratic. The album opens with what sounds like a vibraphone, there are dreamy wisps of female vocals on “Dos Sueños,” and a jaw harp pops up on “Dahum,” which also rides a glitchy vocal loop. Most of the songs are fairly short, but the ascendant “Awe” takes its time, matching bubbling bass parts to feverish hand drums. Throughout the album, everything flows like one snaking passage, with virtually no disruption.

At times, the sounds that make up Awe Owe can be frustratingly fleeting. Like a sound installation, it also seems noticeably different each time around. That may be true of all music to some degree, but Lange happily plays to the idea of the medium as an ever-shifting landscape. And if the lack of English lyrics keeps some listeners at arm’s length, for most it should only illuminate the wonderful vagueness and universality of what Lange has so lovingly concocted here.

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