Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile review

Secret Meeting score: 85

by Philip Moss

Robert Carlos Lange’s sixth record under the Helado Negro moniker is a genre defying masterclass, and – through his skewed, misty eyed vision – the results are magical.

Opener, Please Won’t Please, is the perfect encapsulation of this. Thematically, it’s like a brother to much of the work on Solange’s new record, When I Get Home Lange celebrating his pride at being a man of colour – ‘That brown won’t go/ brown just glows,’ delving once more into the subject matter covered on It’s My Brown Skin (taken from his 2016 album, Private Energy). But wrapped around the song’s nucleus is a muffled drum machine, dreamy vibraphones and spacious bass that makes it almost impossible not to want to dance to.

Imagining What To Do is stripped back to a plucked classical guitar, baby grand flourishes, steel pans and gentle strings. Elsewhere, on the likes of Echo For Camperdown Curio, Lange utilises field recordings of a couple kissing in a park. The Sufjan Stevens featuring, November 7, is a noise collage of audio found on an old memory card. While Running might just be an early contender for song of the year – and, excuse the pun, its stunningly simple chorus will be running through your mind for days to come!

Whether Lange has ever listened to Gruff Rhys is probably unlikely, but, as with the ex-Furries’ man’s output in his native tongue, the tracks that appear here in Spanish somehow seem to make sense – the mood resonating from the feeling Lange evokes on the likes of Fantasma Vaga and Pais Nubaldo rather than the semantics.

Vocally, Lange falls somewhere between TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and The Dears’ Murray Lightburn. Seen My Aura closely resembling the former’s collaboration, Pray For Rain, with Massive Attack – before it restlessly slips off into funktastic guitars.

To say this is the best LP of his career may be prematurely rash, but it is most certainly a crystallisation of his works to date. Lange’s genre hopping spirit is blatantly evident across this twelve track set, and it is quite simply a joy to be in its presence. So open your ears and your mind, and let This Is How You Smile’s understated brilliance wash over you.

Want to keep up to date with all our latest pieces? Follow us on social media…