Ellen O’Meara, aka ellen o, passed away in January 2019. Ellen was an essential part of the Gold Bolus community and her loss is devastating. She leaves behind an incredible body of music made in a short time.
Ellen’s album sparrows and doves was one of the first Gold Bolus releases. At present, and by a large margin, it is the most listened to album in the history of the label. The ten tracks on the album, mostly under three minutes, are so dense with complex harmonies, elegant electronic production, novel formal construction, and clear, resonant lyrics.
By the time Ellen and I started playing together in the group Sweat Lodge in 2011, many of these songs had been written already. I was very lucky to see her work through ideas, to arrange and re-arrange, to incorporate new technology and new stylistic vocabulary into her already strong compositions. I remember one Sweat Lodge concert where Ian Munro and I arrived early to show Ellen and Cory Bracken who to plug cables and microphones into mixers – they were both coming from instrumental backgrounds and didn’t know from electronics. Within two years, Ellen made this amazing album with drum programming, a distinct multi-tracked vocal sound, layers of keyboard, and treated acoustic instruments (and Cory made the electronics heavy REAL ADULT album). Her commitment to exploring and then perfecting the sounds and feel she heard was immense.
Ellen’s second album, You/Sonata was released on Babygrande. It dives further into the work she started on sparrows and doves. I was very lucky to get to be in her band in 2014-15 when she was developing these songs. Her rigor was again great. Between shows, she’d make brilliant songs that ended up on the cutting room floor, and for the ones that stayed in the rotation, she’d often completely remake the backing tracks, change the key, change the horn parts, adjust harmonies. She tested and tweaked to make sure everything was perfect. You/Sonata is a document of this process.
Beyond her work under her own name, Ellen has turned up all over the first five years of Gold Bolus Recordings. Her work with Panoply Performance Lab is documented on both of their GBR albums, Institute_Institut (as a vocalist) and Presenting as You (on synthesizer). Ellen frequently played in the band of Joe White and in a quintet version of Why Lie? when their GBR albums came out. Ellen is featured on a version of Matthew Gantt’s Iterations. For Super Bolus I, Ellen used a sampler to do an unlikely and eye-opening “cover” of the noise landscape of REAL ADULT. At Super Bolus II, she joined Sam Sowyrda and Angela Morris of Rallidae in what became the first performance of their collaborative trio softshell. For Super Bolus III, she sat in with Andrew Livingston for some Piad Guyvessant tunes. I imagine that she performed with ~75% of the artists on this label at some point.
As much as anyone, she was what this label was started to document – a web of artists, creating in many directions, with no particular sound at the center, articulating a community of love, respect, and engagement. This community is greatly weakened by losing Ellen, but we move forward with her as an example of a generous soul and a brilliant musical mind.
– Dave Ruder, GBR Founder & Manager