Albums are usually praised for being innovating and creating music which sounds different and new. However, creativity and originality does not always lead to great music. Helado Negro’s latest album, Pasajero, suffers from being too deliberately unusual and innovative. Under his alias, Helado Negro, Roberto Carlos Lange mixes traditional-minded Latino sounds with an assortment of far-out electronic instruments, and it doesn’t quite work.
That’s not to say that Pasajero is devoid of any merits. Roberto Carlos Lange is a good singer, and the vocals throughout Pasajero are warm and fairly enjoyable. My Spanish is not good enough to comment on the lyrics, but it seems that Lange is a competent songwriter.
The instrumentation is what holds back Pasajero and keeps it from being a good album. Lange deliberately creates new sounds, especially making abundant use of overly distorted and reverbed synthesizers to accompany his vocals and acoustic guitar. This makes for a sound which is somewhat psychedelic, but ultimately not very engaging.
Even the strongest track, “Jurame,” is held back by the instrumentation. Lange uses a catchy hook, airy backing vocals, and raindrop-sounding percussion which would give the song a cohesive, light sound. The song is unfortunately compromised by electronic “flutters,” which get in the way of what could have been a simple and atmospheric song.
Other songs on the 22-minute album suffer similar fates. Otherwise several good songs brought down by questionable instrumentation. It is slow without eliciting much emotion. It just sits there. This is not music which I would choose to listen to by itself. The fact that it’s so unengaging, however, means that it is pretty decent for getting work done. So, if you have essays to write or bills to pay, and you want some background music, go ahead and listen to Helado Negro. You won’t get distracted.
By Tad, DJ of The Good Hip-Hop Show, Saturdays 4-5pm