The creative process is such a fascinating part of the human condition. Whether it’s writing, songwriting, filmmaking, speech, or any number of other creative pursuits, the process of making something just to make it is so uniquely human and yet completely out of grasp to understand until you do it. When the process takes you to places outside the norm, you can be unwary of your next steps and the fear of failure can be overwhelming. El Ten Eleven is definitely outside the realms of popular cultures, but their endurance and creativity continue to astound with their latest release, Banker’s Hill.
The most amazing thing about El Ten Eleven is how they make their music. Guitarist/bassist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty make an interesting upbeat version of post-rock that borderlines on dance at its most energetic. Dunn has an incredibly unique style. He plays doubleneck combo bass and guitar and creates interesting loops that just get looped on top of each other while Fogarty plays a combination of acoustic and electronic drums. Listening to El Ten Eleven is to experience how a song is written. What they create is, of course, fascinating, but it’s so much more about how they make it that becomes the main attraction.
As you listen to the tracks, there’s definitely a tonal shift from song to song. While the duo is playing with electric instruments and effects, they really go against type there. They can make exactly what you might expect with it in high energy performances with highly effected bass and guitar loops accompanied by crashing cymbals and booming drums. They can just as easily make soothing calm music that is far more thoughtful and slower. “This Morning With Her, Having Coffee” is reminiscent of a much more personally emotional track. The pace is slower, the guitar effects much closer to shoegaze reverb and chorus than heavily distorted riffs from the more common El Ten Eleven high energy tracks. The track is much closer to morning coffee in your sleepy neighborhood coffee shop than a night out in the big city.
The way the pair makes music really does shine more in their faster tracks. You can hear how the song builds better on those tracks than the slower songs. On “Three and a Half Feet and Rising,” you can hear how they’ve written the song in layers that crescendo as they build on top of each other. Fogarty starts off with an energetic beat while Dunn is scraping across the strings. As the song progresses, Dunn is layering every riff on top of the other. Then quickly a bridge where he quietly starts the process over again, building everything back up that he just muted. This process takes place over the course of the song until about halfway through when it completely cuts back into a spacier and more thoughtful section. This is what El Ten Eleven excels at, and this album is chock full of these patterns.
The best part about post-rock is that no two bands are really the same. Every musician puts their own spin on the subgenre. It gets wacky and weird sometimes but can be equally mysterious and distant. El Ten Eleven somehow makes it fun. They can get your toes a-tapping just as easily as they can make you go introspective. This is a strong entry in their discography and an incredibly fun record to go through. If you like the band, you’ll love the record.