Ela Minus feels at home with her machines.
Surrounded by her collection of hardware synthesizers and various music-making gadgets, the Colombian-born artist wrote, performed, produced, and recorded her stellar new album, acts of rebellion, entirely on her own. You’d be right for thinking that such an undertaking would be near impossible for most musicians, but for Ela (born Gabriela Jimeno) the juice was worth the squeeze.
Music has been a labour of love ever since she first began begging her mother to let her play the drums. Years of piano lessons later her mother relented, and Ela dove headfirst into the DIY scene with her first band, the Bogota-based hardcore group Ratón Pérez. Oh yeah—she was just 12 years old. Inspired by the self-made ethos of punk pioneers Fugazi, Ela would learn that if she wanted something, she’d have to go out there and make it happen.
But it was only once she moved far from home for college that her love for electronic music really kicked off. Inspiration came from the clubs she’d go to in Boston to escape the stuffy, competitive environment at Berklee College of Music, and groups like Kraftwerk and early Daft Punk—ultimately leading to acts of rebellion: a complex, technical album of electronic music that’s personal, political, and the perfect album for the year 2020. In a mix of her native Spanish and English, Ela sings of little acts of revolutions, sacrificing the online world in favour of real-life connections, and taking chances, in songs that feel just as right in your headphones as they would in the corner of a dark dance club.
But Ela’s music can’t be tarred with the same brush that positions dance music as a series of homogenous beat drops and confetti machines spewing off the main stage of Coachella—it’s another thing entirely. Firstly, no sound in her work is generated inside a computer. It’s a self-imposed rule born from her years majoring in jazz drum set performance and music synthesis at college, and it means when she performs live, she’s really performing live. And, perhaps most importantly, her lyrics are an introspective, diary-like peek into the world of Ela Minus in a way not often associated with the dance music genre.
In celebration of the release of her new album out today, and to dig a little deeper into the inner world of one of Colombia’s most promising young artists, we asked Ela to document seven things she can’t live without—aside from her collection of synths, of course. Take it away Ela.
Good coffee and coffee tumbler
I love coffee. And I always have good coffee beans with me, a coffee grinder, an aeropress and my coffee tumbler.
I have this essential Oil called ’31 Herbal Oil’ which is a mixture of 31 herbs. It smells beautiful and I always have a small bottle with me; it grounds me, makes me feel awake and fresh. I used to get very bad headaches when I was a kid and my mom used this oil to calm them. So I’ve been carrying it around with me for years now.
I only got a pair of these last year and the first thought I had was, ‘How the hell did I live for so long without this?’ They were essential for me on tour and travelling and now I still use them a lot, even just to cancel out the noise without music.
I love to read, so a Kindle was a very convenient solution for touring, and I’ve learned to love it. It is so practical and I like being able to highlight things and easily be able to revise them, I carry it with me everywhere. Also, when I’m recording I mostly take breaks to read; it really takes my mind off anything I’m working on and I always go back to work with new ideas and a clear mind.
Neon pink gaffer tape
I’ve literally had dreams where I’m on a plane that is about to crash and I take this tape out and fix the plane, saving myself and everybody on board. I think that summarizes how much I like having this with me. It’s so practical and it looks so nice. What more can you ask of an object, really?
Small rubber animals
I walked into an art store near my house in NY one day and saw a pile of small rubber animals and I loved them, so I got a turtle and a dragon. I always have them around, on top of my monitors, or on my desk, or in my hand. I like how they feel and how they look, and they make me think of all the good things about animals… I just like having them around. Although I would rather have a real turtle and a tiger near me all the time.
Notebook and pen
It’s nice to have a small notebook to write things down. I put dates on what I write but it isn’t really a diary, I just write whenever I feel like it and whatever I want. I’ve loved having them to look back on my life, and it comes in handy when I’m recording to remember feelings and experiences, and use those to make the music.