It’s crazy how much sounds El Ten Eleven create. Without a single laptop or sequencer, the duo generate enough noise you’d think it was a much larger group of musicians. Lacking lyrics to specifically explain their deep emotions, the pair instead uses a barrage of bass and drums. With an upbeat ambient style containing subtle, but complicated melodies, similar to that of Explosions in the Sky and Ratatat, El Ten Eleven performed at the Rickshaw on Friday night to a hip, diverse crowd.
Following opening performances from the energetic Chicago rock group Yourself and the Air and New York glitch hop artist Michna, the headline musicians stepped in front of a self-constructed façade strung-together by square LED panels that gracefully transitioned between views of space, underwater and flashing solid colors. The two “don’t-call-it-post-rock” band members proceeded to continuously loop themselves and juggle innumerable layers of dreamy tracks on top of each other with impressively intricate prowess.
El Ten Eleven’s guitarist Kristian Dunn primarily strummed his double-neck bass/guitar (sometimes playing both simultaneously) with extreme precision like weaponry, while his feet danced upon an extensive floorboard of looping devices and effects pedals. His other instrument of choice for the evening was fretless bass. Drummer Tim Fogarty maintained all the fluctuating tempos with veteran savviness. Alternating between traditional acoustic drums, electronic drum pads and roto toms within each song, he occasionally looped his 808 kick beats beats into the mix. All of this ethereal and electric chaos synced harmoniously. The track that resonated the most that evening was their newly released single “Yellow Bridges,” thanks to its abstractly rich textures.
Surprisingly, the band has been around for ten years with five full album releases. Dissimilar to most independent bands without a record label or management, El Ten Eleven decided to go rogue by choice because they were unwilling to give up artistic control. They preferred to form their own record label, fittingly named Fake Record Label and now armed with a marketing agency and a publicist, it is officially a business. Dunn has been previously signed by seven different record labels, including Atlantic. Both Dunn and Fogarty are also members of the San Diego-based electro pop group Softlightes, the first American band signed to the Australian label Modular Records.
To assure their independence in 2012, the band wanted to raise $2,000 for their fifth album, Transitions, on Kickstarter. Using perks such as downloads, vinyl and private music lessons, El Ten Eleven received over $10,000 entirely from their fan base. The record was officially released on October 2.