In 1968 sci-fi author Philip K. Dick famously asked “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” in his groundbreaking novel that later inspired dystopian cult movie Blade Runner. I don’t want to spoil the answer here but there a few follow-up questions that come with this. Do Androids Listen To Electronic Music? Or would they actually prefer a post-hardcore record? Gabriela Jimeno surely is not a robot; she’s a human through and through and knows about both worlds. Although the sound of her artistic alter ego Ela Minus is purely electronic, it comes from a very organic and analogue understanding of music making. She doesn’t use laptops but as an outsider you really can’t tell … although you might feel it when listening to Acts Of Rebellion, her ambitious debut full-length which now finally arrives on Domino Records. From hard beats, to tender synths, ambient vibes and playful synthetic experiments – it feels as if Ela Minus managed to combine a variety of sounds and ideas into the album. She makes many opposing things work on the record and managed to add a personal note on top of it as well. Not bad, for a debut album.
Over the past fifty years electronic music grew into plenty of different artistic branches. Anything is possible these days, from experimental avant-garde textures to really stupid mainstream EDM-pop. Electronic music is petty much everywhere – in the club or in the background of your favourite café, it’s often more about quantity than quality. But well, when it comes to quality you know that you can count on the talent of NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION since we care a lot about these things. Today we are very happy to launch a brand new playlist on our Spotify profile – Electronic Empathy. And we got the marvellous Ela Minus on board to guest host a huge part of it today. I’ve been an electronic music fan all my life and a representative selection of good synthetic sounds was kind of overdue so I’m happy to finally make it work. This playlist is about tasteful, diverse and exciting new electronic music aside the mainstream and I will update it frequently in the future, alone or with the help of great electronic music artists like Colombian producer.
There’s a time difference of about seven hours between Germany and Columbia so I’m catching Gabriela early in the morning during her first coffee at the day to talk about her wonderful debut album, her personal affection for electronic music and the human aspect of it and the great selection she compiled for us and you folks out there.
Your music got a more analogue and less digital approach, right? What’s the main difference for you here? Do you need the haptic appeal?
The things I gravitate towards have a little bit to do with the things you just mentioned. It’s a little bit about haptic but also my musical education. I grew up playing drums and that surely had an effect as it’s quite physical. I also like the analogue sound a bit more; it feels more natural to me. I would be very bad at only making music via a laptop. That’s why I aim for hardware.
Do you remember the first electronic music tool you found yourself making music on?
That was the “Analog Rytm” drum machine. So it was about beats first and not just the sound. I think I had a pocket piano synched to it so it was a very simple set-up but I remember thinking how amazing it sounded.
There’s one fascinating aspect in your biography. You started playing drums in a hardcore band when you were only 12 years old and you kept doing that for ten years. I was wondering if there are any parallels between this sort of music and the music you are doing now.
I think so, yes. One similarity is definitely the aspect of playing physical instruments. I’m releasing the album on a label but before that it was a pretty DIY vibe and that’s another thing I took from the hardcore scene. And I also see club culture in a similar way like the hardcore audiences. The aspects of unity and non-conformational behaviour always fascinated me. Going to a place, listening to live music and coming specifically for that experience – that really fascinates me. It’s like a ritual to me; you are present when you are in that room.
I also think that the whole “niche” aspect is crucial here to gather people who are truly dedicated. I mean, you don’t go to a hardcore concert by accident, right?
(laughs) That’s a good point, yeah. No, nobody does that. I never thought about that way. There’s also the hedonistic side of club culture where people go once for the party and not the music specifically but those who are really into the music know the difference.
This whole Corona year really made me miss club culture to an extend I wasn’t aware of. I assume that’s the same with you, right?
I was very much aware of the effect clubbing had for me. I was playing and touring a lot before the club world shut down. I never stopped touring, first as a drummer, later with my own projects. Live shows are where my heart is, both as an audience member or a performer. I didn’t need the pandemic to be aware of that but this year gave me the chance to question myself and my career without live shows. Like many other artists I never thought about not playing live at all.
That happened to a lot of people in 2020. They are forced to reflect on their lives.
Yeah, I think it’s a beautiful coincidence that I’m releasing my first record at the same time. I might have different thoughts and findings from these reflections if I didn’t have this album ready. I love creating records, creating the artwork and putting everything together. I use different tools to stay connected with people, via the album itself rather than a live show.
This is the perfect moment to release Acts Of Rebellion. I’m happy that it’s finally our and that I made the decision to stop touring one and a half years ago in order to actually record it.
I took my time; I did everything differently than I’ve done it before. Two years ago I would have panicked more; I might even have ditched the whole album idea in a similar situation like this. I realized that making albums can be fun and an art form that does indeed work for me.
For me good sequencing is very important to make an album work. The placement of the tracks, the actual amount of music on it… there’s various things you have to keep in mind. Did you have any albums in mind that worked as “role models” for a good album format?
No, I freed myself from that, maybe because I also couldn’t think of a proper example here although I listen to a lot of electronic music albums. To be honest I almost felt like I had two albums on my hand, a club album and a more ambient-sounding one. For a brief moment I thought about simply making two. Than I raised my personal level of quality and made the songs better and better and took away the songs that I think wouldn’t make the cut. I was partly confused about the whole sequencing aspect ’cause I didn’t know how to arrange the album at the beginning but in the end I found a way.
The human behind the machines
Where there initial bands or moments that made you fell in love with electronic music?
Definitely discovering Kraftwerk. That was a turning point for me. When I first listened to Radioactivity I thought “Wow, I missed 18 years of my life not knowing about this.” Before Kraftwerk it was Radiohead actually who got me interested in electronic music. In Rainbows was an album my bandmates were very much in love with. I first refused to listen to them because especially as a teenager I had this thing where I needed to be against all things a lot of people liked. (laughs) Out of Radiohead I found Four Tet, then I saw Caribou opening for Radiohead and slowly but steady I was drawn into the world of electronic music. I always relate to melodies a lot and they are pretty melodic so that’s why it was really easy for me to fall for them.
You just mentioned the melodic aspect and I was wondering if there are certain aspects besides that that attract you to electronic music? The sound, the production? Certain structures?
To be honest I don’t fall for production that much. I can appreciate it but it’s not something my heart cares a lot about. In a more practical sense it’s the melodic and harmonic aspect. In a more abstract way it’s the emotional sense in the music; in any form of music actually. I love listening to something real, something human and that’s what gets me.
That brings us straight to one of the toughest and most essential questions here. What makes electronic music human?
I think the question of humanity as nothing to do with music being created analogue or digitally. It’s completely about the human behind. Four Tet, for example, sounds extremely human and he works quite digital. The magic comes from what the actual human being puts into the music.
Maybe a musical background helps as well …
I agree. But when people hear the term ‘musical background’ they automatically think about ‘music school’ and I don’t think it’s about that necessarily. It takes years of experience and playing real instruments to get a better understanding. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule but playing in bands really helps and I think that’s also the background of Kieran (Hebden aka Four Tet, Ed.). Different musical influences also help. There are many ways to study, not just in a school.
How would you describe the electronic music scene of Colombia to an outside like me?
It is a tight community, I think. And during the past years I get the feeling it finally woke up and is more confident than ever. New talents start quite early which is a good thing. The scene is realising that they’ve been compared to other international scenes. They were often seen as Latin American producers and artists instead of just artists. But there’s a new generation that’s just tired of it. And that goes for many countries in South America. They are waking up and the music will follow. Some of the most creative music is born out of rage and people saying ‘fuck it, I do what I want, so you should watch out for the scene here. There’s a label called Insurgentes from Medellín which makes great stuff and you should keep an eye on this.
In mainstream pop there appears to be a new hype about Latin sounds …
Yeah, I know and I thought about this a lot. I don’t make typical Latin American music but people ask me a lot about that.
Tiny acts of rebellion in our everyday lives
The diverse influences and interests of Ela Minus are not only sensible in her album but also the playlist she compiled for NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. Electronic Empathy is all about showing different sides and aspects of contemporary electronic music and I’m quite happy that the Colombian artist picked such an interesting group of songs. The first 25 songs in our Spotify playlist are personal picks by Gabriela while I filled up the remaining slots with own favourites.
Let’s talk a bit about your contributions to our new playlist here. I see a few familiar names but plenty of unknown ones as well. What about Lorenzo Senni who you picked as opener following your own single El Cielo No Es De Nadie?
Ah yes, I’m so excited about Lorenzo. I love his music so much and I’m happy to share it with you. He’s an Italian musician who releases on Warp. I find his music amazing and I think he mainly uses hardware as well and does most of his stuff on one synthesizer which I also find really cool. It’s so musical, so interesting. His new album Scacco Matto came out this year and it’s probably one of my favourites this year. Some songs are a bit more aggressive compared to the stuff I usually listen to but it’s nice.
Happy to see Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith following Lorenzo …
Yeah, although I picked a classic instead of a new tune. I know this playlist is a bit all over the place but I just put in as many tracks I could think of.
I only discovered Palmbomen II this year but I really like this lush sound, especially all the crazy films he produced for his tracks on YouTube. Did you see them?
Oh yes, they are amazing. There’s also a track called Slavic by Antenna in the playlist which actually came out on the label of Palmbomen II, called World Of Paint. The sounds, those videos – they create a whole fucking universe and that’s something that really speaks to me. Same goes for their website. If you visit it you’ll see how well it is curated. Antenna’s album Quiet FX is one of the first releases and I really like it. I love this Belgium/Dutch lo-fi electronic vibe… well, I don’t know how to exactly label it. (laughs) Betonkunst is another artist from that scene that I put into the playlist.
Thanks a lot for these recommendations and starting our little collaborative playlist adventure here. Acts of Rebellion is also out this week and as a last question I’m curious to know if this album in some form is a rebellious act for you?
I thought a lot about how making art and music is an act of rebellion against death really. It’s part of the human nature. Everything’s telling us not to create, especially in times like these. Everything’s pushing us towards consuming or experiencing but not to create. Everyone who’s making art right now is a rebel. And for me the fact that I didn’t use a laptop at all to make this album is a form of rebellion against common contemporary and commercial understandings.
The original title of the album was More Acts Of Rebellion because that’s exactly what we need right now. I want to invite people to be a little bit more rebellious every day of their lives.
Please note: Ela Minus’ selection was only available for a limited amount of time. In the meantime some of her picks have merged with the songs of our own latest update. Also, don’t forget to listen to the fabulous Acts Of Rebellion which is out now on Domino.