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HELADO NEGRO
Canta Lechuza
Asthmatic Kitty
Format: CD / LP / Digital
Release Date: May 10, 2011
By Robert Stribley January 9, 2012

Roberto Lange laid down the tracks for his sophomore album Canta Lechuza entirely in Spanish. He lives in Brooklyn, was raised in Florida, was born of Eucadorean immigrants, and he recorded this album in Connecticut. So, I guess we can consider him an East Coast kinda dude.

Judging from this chill, dignified release, you could be forgiven for thinking him Mexico’s latest sophisticated electronic export (think Murcof). But, no, despite the preponderance of lyrics in Espanol, Lange is an American born and bred. That makes his recording all the more idiosyncratic, especially considering it arguably falls squarely into the electronica fold. That’s not a criticism, merely an observation. Straight up? This is an admirable effort that deserves the attention of all of those implicit audiences: American, Latin, Electronic – and more. If you’re want to pigeonhole, though, I’d best describe this as downtempo Latin, ambient, cerebral headphone music. It stands, certainly, on the shoulders of the IDM movement, yet remains quite nicely distinct from it, gracias.

Canta Lechuza means “owl singing.” On the cover, Lange lounges in a tub, the perfect depiction for what you feel listening to this album: like you’re bathing in ambient sound, awash in Lange’s often somnolent vocals. Immerse yourself first with the opening coos of the gelid opener “Globito,” then the burbling, drawling “Regressa,” followed by the chill, ambling “2º Dia.” Ah, yes, now you’re soaking in it!  Next, “Lechuguilla” sounds most like swaying Brazilian samba. So, too, the chill repetitive trudge of “Calculus” proves hypnotic. It’s a playful album, too, though it never lapses into silliness. The gurgling glitch of “Oreja De Arena” even translates as “grinning from ear to ear,” making explicit the tone which surfaces throughout.

On each of these songs, unobtrusive electronics accompany Lange’s even, smooth vocals. This characteristic makes for soothing electronica largely without the inescapable glitch and grit of dubstep and grime, for example, but which nonetheless still sounds fresh and of the moment. Sure, there’s some gentle feedback to follow the soft keening on “El Oeste” and to introduce “Regresa.” It serves to rough up the proceedings a little, but it’s elegantly inserted, serving to string out your vibe, not to interrupt it. Even Lange’s vocals prove languid and thoughtful, carefully, politely placed to ensure they are heard, but don’t disrupt. Some might complain that the net effect here then is to leave the listener with few surprises. I think it simply makes for a consistent, cohesive piece of work.

Overall, Canta Lechuza proves an elegant, refined effort which defies precise categorization. As for pairings, it goes down well with a rich Belgian triple (from personal experience), a night under a feather-filled comforter, or, of course, a long, slow soak in the tub.

Visit: Helado Negro | Asthmatic Kitty
Purchase: Insound | eMusic