Ela Minus Perfected the Quarantine Album—Two Years Ago
In October, Gabriela Jimeno B.M. ’13, who performs under the name Ela Minus, released an album called acts of rebellion, whose themes revolved around the idea of resistance and social justice. She recorded and produced the record herself in her apartment. She appears to have perfected the quarantine album and made something tailor-fit to 2020. Thing is, she finished the record in 2018, two years before the pandemic.
Jimeno described the album’s ability to speak to the present moment as completely unexpected and surreal. “It’s so incredibly outside of any plans or ideas one could have had about the future,” she said. “And the fact that I made something a year and a half ago that fits ridiculously perfect in such an unprecedented context, it blows my mind.”
While acts of rebellion is her first full-length as Ela Minus, the debut codifies what seems like a drastic shift in her aesthetic and artistic output. Since leaving the hardcore punk band Ratón Pérez in her native Colombia to study drums at Berklee, she found a deep connection to jazz, eventually leading her to work closely with Terri Lyne Carrington. She also discovered the nightclub scene in Boston, which sparked a curiosity that led her to major in electronic production and design. The program equipped her with the knowledge to build her own synthesizers and began her journey to her work as Ela Minus in earnest.
I really believe if you do something, especially if it’s art, you devote your life to it. That doesn’t change because there’s a pandemic going on.
—Gabriela Jimeno (Ela Minus)
Punk to jazz to dark electronica: It may seem like a stark contrast, but for Jimeno, it all feels connected to her identity as a drummer. “I still see myself as a drummer…and I absolutely couldn’t be who I am without jazz,” she said, going on to say that it’s the physicality of drums that infuses such propulsive energy into her electronic work. As a drummer, she was obsessed with tuning kits and customizing her set, and that attention to detail translated easily to bending circuits and building synthesizers. “With drums, you’re free to build the kit you want,” she said. “I approach my setup the same way. I have drum sets made out of synthesizers.”
The album hasn't been spared from the challenges the music business has faced in 2020, most notably the inability to tour and perform live. According to Jimeno, this means promotion is pretty much nonstop, and she's focused every day since the album came out on press, video performances, and creating DJ mixes. Her DIY ethos has helped her thrive under the intense schedule, and she says that’s all part of being an artist. “I really believe if you do something, especially if it’s art, you devote your life to it. That doesn’t change because there’s a pandemic going on,” she said.
As for advice for Berklee students wondering how to shape their careers during such uncertain times, Jimeno said to focus on yourself and not get too hung up about a future you can’t control. That lesson was something she learned from working with Carrington, and it changed her entire outlook on her life. “Don’t worry about the future, don’t try and control things…. No one knows what your life or the world is going to look like,” she said, paraphrasing Carrington. “If you work on yourself, you’re going to be just fine.”
Listen to "dominique," one of the singles off of Ela Minus's debut album, acts of rebellion: