When I heard Ela Minus was coming to Flash DC last September, I immediately bought three tickets. More than I needed, in fact. I didn’t care. Ela Minus is worth overbuying, to bring friends or strangers or other randos, just to take in what she has to offer.
For those new to Ela Minus, she’s one of the best coldwave and electronica artists in the world. A native of Bogota, Colombia, she’s not only a Berklee College of Music-trained jazz percussionist but a former emo band performer and expert in synthesizer tech.
Born in 1990 as Gabriela Jimeno, she’s been on the scene for years and played at some of the world’s most avant-garde venues, supporting some pretty epic acts. I first came in contact with her music when she contributed to Populous’s 2017 album “Azulejos,” in which Minus performed the Spanish-language vocals on “Azul Oro.” Full of steel drums, marimbas and field recordings, Azulejos is a river of sound through Portugal, South America and Italy. The album left me wanting more and exploring the featured artists, including Ela Minus.
She’s released her own albums, focused on synths and cold reserved rhythms paired with high-key electronic melodies, coupled with her own brand of breathy vocals in both Spanish and English. She’s contributed to KEXP’s “Midnight in a Perfect World” as well as performing an extended set on their “Live at Home” set.
I first saw her live on a magical night in April of 2019 when she served as an opener for Matthew Dear, who opened for Jon Hopkins at the 9:30 Club. Minus performed her early melodies and gave us a perfect introduction to Dear. Then, in a surprise move, Minus joined us on the balcony at 9:30 for the grand finale, an extended play of Hopkins’ epic “Light Through the Veins.” It was a moment of connectedness I doubt anyone in attendance will forget: Everyone feeling linked musically to each other and to the artists.
Since that night, she’s released a few singles as well as a full-length album, “acts of rebellion,” released by Domino Recording Company in 2020. For her latest visit to the United States, she performed at Flash DC and was supported by Abbey Jordan and Tammy Lakkis. Although she started at midnight — a bit late for me, an aging Millennial — she kept the crowd entranced, diving deep into chill synths, straying a bit from her recorded performances to improvise.
Her setup is simple: Some custom synthesizer decks covered in hot pink gaffer’s tape, perched on folding legs and from this “command station” she steers the ship of sound through high-key anthems, long and melodic interludes and sometimes-cryptic lyrics. Her anthem “megapunk” gives power to the challenge of authority; “they told us it was hard but they were wrong” speaks to the futility of dissention and rejection, and “dominique” evokes a life of bachelorette hood, living on nothing but coffee and booze and staying up through the night. Which, I must say, is what we did on Wednesday at Flash DC.
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