When: Sat., Nov. 5 2016
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5
Private Energy is an apt album title for Helado Negro. His live performance is a window into an artist's psyche, a key to a lover's emotional treasure chest. Some critics have called the record, released in early October, a reinvention. But the artist, Ecuadorian-American Roberto Carlos Lange, sees it as more of an unconscious evolution.
"The process becomes invisible to you," he explains. "[On tour] your energy gets stretched so thin, you start becoming way more creative on how you're using it."
Always one to stretch the boundaries of synths and rhythms in his production, Lange also incorporates the melody of linguistics by using Spanish in much of his work, creating monolingual and bilingual metaphors that gently pull you in. Live, Lange carefully sculpts each beat, intonation, and pause, occasionally meandering into free-form territory as dancers dressed in shaggy tinsel body suits wade through rhythms on stage. The entire performance is an art piece.
The fragility in each track—from the declarative syncopation in "It's My Brown Skin" to the sexy yet vulnerable lyrics of "Lengua Larga"—derives from a need to preserve the energy demanded from us as we move through a troubled world.
"A lot of those songs became way more fluid working with the political environment and social environment in the U.S.," says Lange.
Private Energy isn't supposed to be political commentary, but politics finds its way into the record anyway. Take, for example, "Young, Latin and Proud," which serves as the LP's centerpiece. It's Lange's anthem for Latinx and others embracing bicultural and immigrant identities. While performing the song on tour last year, he told crowds it was a letter to his younger self. Private Energy has become both a personal and collective declaration of identity, a reminder to stay grounded in a turbulent society that's chipping away at its injustices at a glaring, rapid pace.
"In a domestic sense and through the world's perspective, we're really vulnerable. We don't want to be represented in all of these different ways," says Lange, alluding to our toxic presidential election and the horrific racial injustices dominating the media. "It's exhausting, too. We have to leave time to preserve and meditate and don't get caught up."
Instead, why not get caught up in Lange's Private Energy? —Victoria Bouloubasis
DUKE COFFEEHOUSE, DURHAM
9 p.m., $5, www.dukecoffeehouse.org