There was a time, not long ago, when music like this was virtually impossible to find outside of a college radio station. Needless to say, it’s a new world, and accessible experiments abound. OMBRE combines the psychedelic Latin folk of Helado Hegro (aka Roberto Lange) with the celestial vocals of Julianna Barwick. The result is spacious electronic dream-pop that could easily act as a soundtrack to contemplating the universe.
If dream-pop is meant to invoke a hypnagogic state, OMBRE's Believe You Me could be a transcription of REM-sleep itself. Pulsing between weightless ambience and muted Latin structures, the duo's debut floats around, twists itself into hard forms, forgets where it's been, and loses itself in the air again. Combining the exploratory curiosity of the Books with the ambient sensibilities of Brian Eno, Eluvium, and Dntel, Believe You Me stands as a patient, innovative record in a time that often rewards the hasty and derivative.
For an a cappella artist, Julianna Barwick is remarkably versatile – last year’s long-player The Magic Place saw her elegantly transcend the apparent limitations of the genre. Now, the latest permutation of her restless creativity sees her teaming with Asthmatic Kitty label mate Roberto Carlos Lange (a.k.a. Helado Negro) to form the chimerical Ombre, a project that turns the benign enchantment of The Magic Place into a distinctly darker form of sorcery.
If there's a common thread running through the music of Asthmatic Kitty labelmates Helado Negro, aka Roberto Lange, and Julianna Barwick, it's that both make records that sound like being alone in someone else's head. You could say this, of course, about a lot music and plenty of solo records in particular, but there's a certain embrace of tranquility, diffuseness, and acceptance of solitude that links their sensibilities. The nocturnal, Latin-tinged loops of Helado Negro's 2011 album Canta Lechuza (translation: owl singing), were pleasantly insomniac, like what you'd listen to after everyone else in the house has gone to sleep, knowing that's when your best ideas come.
In 2011, Roberto Lange "remixed" Julianna Barwick's typically lovely, diaphanous "Vow" under his Helado Negro alias; essentially borrowing a few tightly looped clusters of dense, amorphous sound as a foundation on which to construct an entirely new song in his own free-floating electro-folk-pop style, complete with laconic Spanish vocal. While it offered a fine general indication of the aesthetic commonalities the two Asthmatic Kitty labelmates would later investigate in their collaboration as Ombre, they manage to find a more equitable and more rewarding meeting point on the full-length Believe You Me, which was recorded as they were just getting to know one another as friends. It feels that way: loose, exploratory, warmly generous and open-minded, eager to share and learn, but still with a slight sense of polite restraint.
Over there sits Julianna Barwick’s The Magic Place, an album that radiated dreaminess, seemingly endless loops of her angelic vocals towering over an idyllic landscape. Over there sits Roberto Carlos Lange, who records under the name Helado Negro, produces Latin-tinged psych-folk like the sublime Canta Lechuza. Here now, Lange and Barwick decided to record under the name OMBRE, a name fitting for either its meaning as a hair-dying technique (dark at the roots, lightening at the ends, echoing the melding unification) or as an outdated card game (complicated and richly sepia).
Sultry summer nights following lazy days, you’ve just found your new soundtrack. Mike Diver 2012 Helado Negro first heard Julianna Barwick’s music in 2009, when a click through MySpace landed him on the Louisiana-born singer’s page. Negro was immediately smitten, and the pair toured together in 2010. Now, a year on from Barwick’s mesmerising debut LP The Magic Place, which featured in BBC Music’s top albums of 2011, comes this collaborative album as OMBRE.