In the second track of Acts of Rebellion, Ela Minus intones: ‘We always know in the first minute or so if something is worth staying for’. This is certainly true of an energetic and cohesive debut that pulses with confidence and electro-pop protest.
The album has already garnered multiple favourable reviews in the mainstream press and it seems the Columbian born New Yorker now seems poised to take on the world. I sat down with her on Zoom, to discuss her thoughts on everything from US Politics and lockdown life, to Columbia’s music scene and her stunning new album.
Written entirely on her own in her Brooklyn apartment, the album is both intensely personal and globally relevant – If that makes it sound like a ponderous but worthy drag, this album is anything but!
Buzzing with energy like the crowds of a big city (pre-pandemic!), Minus will make you long for the days when clubbing returns to Manchester.
With Acts of Rebellion, you can expect anthems of protest.
Minus delivers on this with the pulsating beats of ‘megapunk’, “you won’t make us stop” forming the drumming chorus. It’s her favourite song to perform off the album, and rightly so: it’s a call for action, a call for rebellion, for change.
Minus won’t stop, the song asserts, and neither should you.
A Hymn for Wierdos
‘they told us it was hard, but they were wrong’ also engages in this theme: a tribute to wholehearted devotion and the ‘others’ of the world.
Minus herself calls it a “hymn for weirdos”, something that chimes with her attitude of assertive self-confidence and inclusion. This confidence is infectious, as is the drumming chorus of the song.
More intimate is ‘dominique’, which we agree is bizarrely prescient for a song written two years ago. She describes it as “the most personal [track] on the album” focussing on themes of isolation expressed in whispers that confess “I haven’t seen anyone in a couple of days”. Minus is “in awe” of its reception, initially assuming “everyone’s just going to think I’m crazy, no-body’s going to relate to this”.
The album moves fluidly between rousing dance songs and more contemplative tracks. ’pocket piano’ for instance is a gorgeous interlude, recalling electronic birdsong. These don’t feel like interruptions to the album’s flow of energy, but welcome pauses, that make its highs all the more exhilarating.
Similarly, the album’s opener ‘N19 5NF’ sets the scene for the track list’s tension between dulled anxiety and empowering freedom. Trippy and twinkling, the song’s churning rhythms rush you headfirst into the album.
“regaining control of your attention is the most rebellious thing you can do right now”
If this is an album for our times, it is also an album of our times.
Influence and Technology
Composed on her self-made synthesiser, the album utilises technology to contribute to the ‘rebellion’. Minus includes lines of Spanish in this song and most notably in ‘el cielo no es de nadie’ (heaven belongs to nobody’), entirely in Spanish. The album as a whole has an intimate feel, offsetting the sometimes distanced feeling electronic music can produce.
Minus attributes her move from rock to electronic as influenced by Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, echoing a long legacy of electro-pop. She tells me that she started performing in a band aged only 10, music bringing her across continents to study when she was just 18.
People would ask, she says, why she didn’t make traditional Columbian music. “I grew up listening to American music” she explains, “completely consuming American culture.”
In a time where technology is often seen as the shadowy preserve of exploitative tech companies, Minus’ punk appropriation of it seems all the more refreshing. We are all encouraged to take an active part in the rebellion in this manifesto for change, whether in small acts of human kindness or bigger social issues.
When asked what small thing each of us can do to rebel, Minus immediately replies “Being present”. She alludes to the intrusion of technology into our personal lives, saying “I think regaining control of your attention is the most rebellious thing you can do right now.”
At the start of the album, we hear a long intake of breath- Minus deserves this pause, it will be a while before we’ll want her to take another one!