Asthmatic Kitty, USA
By Carlos Reyes
Helado Negro’s Invisible Life is the scoping of small gestures working for broader themes. But to read Invisible Life simply as a metaphor (of big or small scales) limits the absorption of a work that rises above a sonic thesis. Striving for emotional intricacy, Roberto Lange poured his ideas on humanism, spiritual awakenings, and the painfully familiar into a subdued yet quite illuminating phantasmagoria. Heartbreakingly mysterious and brooding in silences, Lange’s dreams make an improbable organic whole. In some ways it’s smaller and simpler than Canta Lechuza or any other Helado Negro release, but the narrative display and rhetorical flourishes accomplished here are fantastical and unmatched.
Appearing darkly menacing from its very start, Invisible Life’s quaint conception might intimidate more than a few. Lange’s sound stimulations are unrestrainedly fanciful and marked by extreme individuality. But alienation is not stimulated, nor desired. “Ilumina tu voz con rayos x” croons Helado Negro as he grants us access to his thoughts and encourages for self-introspection. This interaction from the performer to his audience is eye-opening and emotionally resonates. The lyrics of “Ilumina Vos” seem scattered and indefinite. He’s not being vague or playing with a fill-in-the-blank dynamic, Lange is utilizing language to create spaces where the full range of human interaction can become aware of the worlds concealed/withdrawn from our physical/visible world. His approach is small, invisible, but ultimately real.
Invisible Life reveals itself through a nuanced rhythm where spaces, layers, and melodies have an opportunity to breath and build/unfold before our eyes. While most synth folk albums are preoccupied with surveying a landscape, Invisible Life doesn’t just float around, it acquires physicality. Occupying a physical space seems like an incongruous attribute to the album’s fantastical core, but this is a work so remarkably deft that it must trascend its own spiritual and physical barricades. “Like so much of Helado Negro’s understated tropical synth, it walks a fine line between heartbreak and hope,” says fellow Fonograma critic Claire Frisbie about first single “Dance Ghost.” Most songs in Invisible Life are soulfully blended with such complex human behavior. From the bubbly timbres in “U Heard,” to the echoing chorus in “Arboles,” Lange proves to be both, challenging and compassionate to the medium.
No phatasmagoria is complete without a moment of terror. “Lentamente” is a richly textural piece that goes smooth until its last fifty seconds, when the soundscape is abruptly terrorized. Here we witness Helado Negro throwing caution to the wind and soundscaping a seizure. The combusting sequence is so surreal and touching, that it plays like a quiet cry of anguish rather than the rapturous pinball adventure we’re likely to find if we were to isolate it from its vessel. Only a few can make the incomprehensible so compelling. It’s this kind of trenchant that makes Invisible Life be so personal and yet so affordable to the common pedestrian. This is no happy-go-lucky moment though. Invisible Life is estrangement set in motion. Luckily, Helado Negro illuminates the path towards the presentation of his themes by directing the blood flow of his audience, quietly guiding us to leave our own spiritual comforts.