HELADO NEGRO His sofa game is strong. INMA VARANDELA

Casually dropping bombs of wisdom is second nature for Roberto Carlos Lange, better known by the moniker Helado Negro. It’s Valentine’s Day when I call him. I ask how he’s celebrating and Lange responds sagely, “It’s Valentine’s Day every day. You’ve got to love the people in your life, all of the time.”

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The Brooklyn-based experimental electronic musician originally hails from South Florida, and is a first-generation Ecuadorian American. Lange views life as precious but impermanent, and wholeheartedly believes in the importance of connecting with others, especially through music and performance. He’s played all kinds of concerts and venues, from DIY club shows to one sold-out performance with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra two years ago. Lange says he values “spaces that bring people together from different places. I really do dig accessibility and empowerment of people and things that encourage that.”

Helado Negro’s sound has evolved since Lange’s 2009 debut, Awe Owe, and his surprisingly soft yet booming baritone is one of the only recognizable consistencies throughout his prolific catalog. Mixing English and Spanish lyrics alongside clean, synthy beats, Lange’s tracks exude gauzy dreaminess and intimacy. With 2016’s Private Energy, he brings concepts of race and identity to the forefront for the first time—the 2014 police murder of Michael Brown sparked new urgency for answers to questions he’d often asked before: “What is our significance? What are we doing here?”

As he observed Black Lives Matter activists marching through New York City, Lange’s shock eventually shifted to action. “This is music about protecting the private energy that you have so that you can be able to collect it and figure out the best way to use it,” he says. “People get worried about whether or not to write things that are political, but I really think it’s focused on doing something that means something to you. It doesn’t always have to mean something to everyone else. That’s the whole point of Private Energy for me. You don’t have to yell today and you don’t have to yell tomorrow, but there’s an opportunity for you to think about it and learn about it and figure out for you when the best time to do it is.”

That’s what Helado Negro is about—acting with intention and inviting others to do the same. “There’s a connection that people always have with live [music] and in being with music by yourself, in private,” Lange says. “Just emphasizing that feeling more than anything—that feeling of connection—that’s what I’m trying to do. Always remembering that we’re making that space and that time together and [appreciating] the people who came out. [Performance isn’t] just giving it your all or owning the stage, it’s really mentally connecting with what it means to be there.”

When he performs, Lange’s Tinsel Mammals accompany him onstage. Introduced in 2014, the silver costumes were a collaborative effort with visual artist Kristi Sword (who is also Lange’s spouse). “I was trying to figure out a way to have another representation of the music,” he explains. “It slowly evolved into different aspects of identity and how people interact with being onstage and being in front of people.”

Like Lange’s music, there’s buried significance to the Tinsel Mammals. “The costumes gave the opportunity [to be onstage], and power through anonymity,” he says. “Still being yourself by being inside this costume and being present, [but] it was this guard, this shield, this safe place that protects you in the privacy of what you want to express.”

With heartwarming anthems like “It’s My Brown Skin” and “Young, Latin, and Proud,” Lange reminds listeners to treat ourselves gently and with love. Our time is limited on this planet; why should we give in to what’s easy or expected? One of the tracks on Private Energy has the answer: “We Don’t Have Time for That.”