The underlying theme of Ela Minus’ music is the idea that resistance grows from everyday practices. There are whispers of this across her meticulously crafted debut full-length acts of rebellion, but it’s Minus’ intricate production that commands the most attention. She is both a skilled craftsman and a learned composer: After years of playing in an emo band in her native Colombia, she trained as a jazz drummer at Berklee, where she also learned to design and build synthesizers. Though Minus wrote, produced, engineered, and recorded acts of rebellion at her Brooklyn home, these songs were made for the dark corners of a coldwave disco.
Minus alternates between club cuts and wordless, tranquil interludes, front-loading her most aerobic tracks and leaving more contemplative music for the cooldown. Her technical knowledge is especially evident in the album’s lush instrumentals: Opener “N19 5NF” is glittery and dizzying, like staring at the stars while spinning around too fast; “let them have the internet” stretches out like mechanized whale song through a sea of static. In these nonverbal passages, Minus produces canvases more rich and emotive than some of the realities she sings of.
The album’s most propsulive entries come in the three-song suite of “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong,” “el cielo no es de nadie,” and “megapunk,” which embroider four-on-the-floor beats with clattering percussion, distant breaths, and buzzing synthesizers. “they told us” and “megapunk” are overtly tied to her mission statement: “I want people to feel like they have the power to change the world,” she recently told Pitchfork, suggesting that such change often starts from small acts. Minus has also said that she writes her lyrics (which are sung in English and Spanish) after the music is completed, often relying on unedited improvisation. This process may account for some of the ambiguity in “megapunk” and “they told us,” which approach the topic of dissent in broad, pared-back vocabulary. From “megapunk”:
We can’t seem to find
A reason to stay quiet
We’re afraid we’ll run out of time
To stand up for our rights
We can’t seem to find
Any peace of mind
As much as we try
There’s no way out, but fight
Minus is well-intended, but it’s hard to peek through these platitudes to find what she’s passionate about. The music is layered and driving and a little bit frosty, and the words don’t stoke a particularly visceral or emotional reaction. The kinetic reaction is undeniable—Minus is more than adept at crafting dance music. But is dancing to this music rebellion enough, or is there more to discuss?
On the album’s second half, Minus looks inward, and when she draws from life’s everyday scenes her songs become far more nuanced. On “dominique,” she describes a haze of nocturnal living: spending too much time alone, sleeping well into the evening, and surviving on coffee and liquor. Her voice is breathy and light—a timbre she maintains throughout the album, but one particularly suited to the lone narrator wandering through the wee hours. “The world is made for those who sleep at night,” she speculates over a bittersweet melody that sounds like New Order noir. It’s dance music interested in the loneliness of late-night partying, and Minus tends to the subject with a subtle hand.
acts of rebellion examines the quiet, intimate moments of life as well as concepts that are vast and difficult to convey. Minus approaches both with rich and sophisticated electronic music; it may not be outwardly provocative, but it serves as a place to process initial visions of resistance, those that existed in her private space as she wrote these songs. Perhaps that is a kind of everyday change—acts of rebellion are sometimes dreamt up in your room, but they’re rarely completed there.
Buy: Rough Trade
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