Plenty of YIMBY pixels have already been spilled on Roberto Carlos Lange, whose project Helado Negro greeted us two years ago as a breezy summertime treat. His alter-alter-ego Epstein keeps HN’s hazy asphalt steam heat, but trades the fluttering guitars for trunk-rattling 808s, and his vulnerable warble for vinyl crackle. Epstein turns Lange’s love of hip-hop—birthed on Boogie Down Productions and Buffy the Human Beat Box—into a reverb-soaked, psychedelic throb. His recent album Sealess Sea (out now via Asthmatic Kitty) is built on record loops filtered through his trusty MPC—he describes his composition style as “grab a random stack and see what could get built.” But the record’s bubbly, gauzy feel feels more at home with contemporary loop-mutants like Panda Bear or Black Moth Super Rainbow. The humid, soupy drums on “Seashells & Starfish” are so heavily distended that the whole piece rolls over into post-punk territory, a gorgeous place where This Heat meets Prefuse 73.
What is Sealess Sea about?
A lot of the titles of this record came after the music. The initial intention wasn’t to make a water-themed album. After all the songs were finished there was this constant theme that led to water-based and ocean-themed narratives… The album was about me having a sensation of drowning in New York in the metaphorical sense. Completely submersed. And instead of paddling and fighting it, I sank in and tried to look around at this other world.
What inspired “Seashells & Starfish”?
The song is built on a loop that was sampled from a record. The sample is a Buddhist mantra. I just tried to find a way where it seemed like it kept expanding, but with this repetitive tone and mantra… Tape echoes and slap delays were an inspiration. I cant put my finger on an artist or a certain type of music. Things that live in a repetitive realm would be a good point of reference. Hip-hop, drones, chants…
Did you actually sample records to make this track, or are the sounds all original?
The tracks share both samples from records and played instruments. The records are obscured and chopped for personal aesthetic reasons. The types of records use were extremely varied—from instructional cartwheel records to classical prepared piano records. All types of stuff.
What state of mind do you have to be in to work on Epstein’s music, as opposed to when you’re composing as Helado Negro?
Ninety-nine percent of the Epstein music is made on an MPC-2000XL. So it’s all about listening to everything and less about lyrics. Helado Negro focuses on the performance of my voice.
What’s your favorite place in the city to catch some beach time?
The one with the fewest diapers and syringes.