Tix: $13-$15 Doors: 8pm
Helado Negro Helado Negro returns with This Is How You Smile, an album that freely flickers between clarity and obscurity, past and present geographies, bright and unhurried seasons. New York-based artist Roberto Carlos Lange embraces a personal and universal exploration of aura -- seen, felt, emitted -- on his sixth album and second for RVNG Intl.
Helado Negro's 2016 album Private Energy, re-released as Private Energy (Expanded) in 2017, is an urgent affirmation of self-love and solidarity driven by Lange's personal response to sanctioned violence towards people of color. The widely embraced album furthered the artist's visibility beyond a community of fans long established through a rigorous recording and touring career, with moments like "Young, Latin and Proud" and "It's My Brown Skin" aligning with a larger social demand for basic rights amongst marginalized people and the universal imperative to love, be loved, and thrive.
This Is How You Smile's opener "Please Won't Please," a call back to Private Energy, finds vitality in turning the privacy dial further inward. Setting the scene with a spare drumbeat that moves the music forward in a more maligned than militant march, Lange's voice tenderly permits himself weariness: "We light ourselves on fire, just to see if anyone believes." Something must be reserved, "will anyone rescue what's left of me." Diving into glimmering spirals, the remainder of the album takes leave of the broader "we" and mines intimate pairings -- siblings, parent / child relationships, partnership, and old friends.
The story of This Is How You Smile includes a jaunty, head-nodding walk with his brother on hot pavement to the community pool of his childhood neighborhood in Florida. Such days end with a welcome fatigue and chlorine blurred reveries in "Seen My Aura." The confidence and security of youth, moves away from family, across years and regions, to a bleak winter of "Imagining What to Do," and loving partners deciding to make each other smile, while waiting for the sun to return.
This Is How You Smile derives from Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl," a story she wrote in the form of a mother's sole, complicated, but loving voice, speaking a "How to" litany of advice ranging from domestic chores to what a daughter, an immigrant and young woman of color, must do to protect herself in a world that was not designed by or for her. This is how joy, or its visage, at turns comforts, constricts, or becomes armor.
Contemplating a parental voice, or its absence, becomes a question of where one may choose to return or depart. The lyrics of "Running," seem to retrace the cyclical path of pop's familiar obsessions, addressing the unrequited, fickle, or feared lover, "I feel you in my mind, all the time... you got me running, running..." Instead, the repetition of fleeing breaks with a languid laugh of recognition, that the lives of those who came before are within one's own, even when we diverge, "I see you in my hands... just like you." The song may also be read beyond seeing the humanity of self and parent, to the ever more visible global failures of patriarchal structures, and those moments when one sees their traces in self and those dear.
Lange describes the album as the soundtrack of a person approaching you, slowly, for 40 minutes. In "Fantasma Vaga," one of the first songs he wrote that set his approach for the album, a ghost wanders in from the low end, building a fuller form with each shaking step. Whirring, stops and starts of an eco espectral, may be musician trying to imitate, synthesize, the sound of a haunting, or a ghost itself trying to render the human voice. Lange often visualizes meeting strange beings, the odd encounters that occur in the creative process, a sound form of manipulation, in which who, or what is changing whom, becomes unclear.
This Is How You Smile invites listeners on a walk through the changing colors of early mornings and evenings, writing, recording, or hearing a friend, a figure emerges, and there you are.
Tasha On her debut album ALONE AT LAST, Tasha celebrates the radical political act of being exquisitely gentle with yourself. For years, the Chicago songwriter has dreamed hard of a better world -- she's worked with the local racial justice organization BLACK YOUTH PROJECT 100 and has been on the front lines at protests around the city. But as she returned to the guitar, an instrument her mother first taught her to play when she was 15 years old, she began exploring the ways music can be a powerful force for healing. It might not fix a deeply broken world all by itself, but it can offer comfort and respite for those who, like her, dare to imagine a thriving future.
Citing Robin D. G. Kelley's book FREEDOM DREAMS as a foundational text to her artistic practice, she says, "BLACK FOLKS IMAGINATION INHERENTLY IS A RADICAL THING. IN A PLACE OF OPPRESSION AND COLONIZATION, THE ABILITY TO IMAGINE A FUTURE, IMAGINE MAGIC, IMAGINE SOMETHING BETTER, IS SUBVERSIVE. PEOPLE DON'T WANT YOU TO BE ABLE TO IMAGINE YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF THE PLACE THAT YOU'VE BEEN PUT." So she started asking: "WHAT DOES MY IMAGINATION MEAN TO ME AS A RADICAL THING?" Because Tasha's music has served her so profoundly as she's made it, she hopes it can be a source of strength for others, too. "I'M ONLY ABLE TO HANDLE THE WORLD BECAUSE I CAN WRITE THESE SONGS," she says, "SO I'D LIKE TO THINK THAT I HELP OTHER PEOPLE DEAL WITH THE WORLD FOR THE SAME REASON."
Across ALONE AT LAST'S seven tracks, Tasha sings mantras of hope and restoration over lush guitar lines inspired by the stylings of Nai Palm and Lianne La Havas -- both artists who, like Tasha, opt for a sweetness in their playing over the masculinized bravado that often accompanies the electric guitar. "YOU/TAKE CARE OF YOUR LITTLE BODY," Tasha urges on the record's spoken word opener. On "KIND OF LOVE," she paints falling for someone as the gateway to a new world where anything's possible, and on "SOMETHING ABOUT THIS GIRL," she notes the profound strength that comes from vulnerability: "ALL HER SOFTNESS MAKE HER TOUGH."
"THESE SONGS ARE BED SONGS," Tasha says of Alone At Last. "SONGS ABOUT THE PLACE THAT ONE MIGHT GO WHEN THEY FINALLY NEED TO BE AWAY FROM WHATEVER IT IS THAT MIGHT BE CAUSING THEM STRESS OR ANXIETY OR SADNESS OR FEAR." In the world she conjures within the album, there's plenty of room to forge your own home where you can rejuvenate and heal -- where you don't have to be a superhero and you don't have to save the world all by yourself, where nothing is expected of you except that you just be. It's the kind of album you can curl into after a hot summer day in the city: a powerful talisman in a demanding world, and a reminder that kindness toward the self can help unlock the way to a world a little more livable than this one.
|Type of Place||Live Music|
|Address||2208 Elliston Pl, Nashville, TN 37203, USA|
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