New York-based Colombian artist Gabriela Jimeno used to turn heads as a member of sharp psych pop outfit Balancer, but she’s been building her own hype for some months now under the Ela Minus moniker. Her 2015 EP, First Words, was a honey-sweet record filled with delicate pop and experimentation, led by her peculiar childlike voice. That hype gained new heights with performances at major international festivals like Festival Nrmal, Estéreo Picnic, and SXSW (she’s one of our must-see acts), which are all right around the corner. That’s why her new three-track EP couldn’t come at a better time.
Grow was co-produced by Astro’s Andrés Nusser and Jimeno herself, and here they introduce new, more disruptive elements to give Ela Minus’ sound an edge. It’s a notable contrast to the characteristic sweetness of her own voice and composition style. Good news, you guys: the experiment worked, as she’s maintained the playfulness of previous work, while sounding bold and suggestive in terms of production. In general, the songs are austere, and showcase both Jimeno and Nusser’s love for synthetizers and plastic, something that ultimately benefits the EP.
Opener “Ahead” isn’t your typical synth pop song. Its scarce, unpredictable synth tones don’t fall on the exact count, and continue in a linear manner without a discernible structure. It’s hard to pin down but familiar, thanks to Minus’ melodic vocal twists. The mix thickens almost imperceptibly, until we reach something we can almost call a chorus. “Come play with me/I’ll make my own family/so I can play,” she croons, lyrics that match the innocence of her voice.
“Volcán,” Grow‘s sole single and the only track in Spanish, is definitely the centerpiece. Ela Minus’ invitation to dance like it’s our last day on Earth is an instant hit, with its catchy melodies, infectious beat, and growling bass line. The lush synth fills embellish the song at very precise moments, and there’s an overall sense of joy that creeps into your chest and fills it entirely. The EP closes with “House on a Mountain,” a welcome slow jam. It slightly resembles an 80s palette, inducing plenty of synth-driven nostalgia.
Grow is a step forward from First Words. Ela Minus already had a strong songwriting voice, and she isn’t afraid of taking risks. If this EP is your first taste of Jimeno’s work, it should be a warm welcome.