Tonal Tapestries, Sonic Weaves
Transitions, the fifth full-length release from LA duo El Ten Eleven, is short enough to be an EP. With only seven songs clocking in at thirty-some odd minutes, it’s a quick listen, but it has the density of a much longer album. The aptly-named Transitions is a post-rock tapestry, its tracks draped with layers and layers of sounds, always in flux, shifting and evolving, growing and subsiding.
This organic structure transitions smoothly through the album, for the most part, segueing through the tracks. The title track starts out with clapping percussion and clean guitar as guitarist/bassist Kristian Dunn adds on layers of looping pedals to create a rich, tangible texture. After a minute, the bass comes in low and buzzing, underpinning the interweaving melodies as they rise and fall, blending back into the soundscape. Halfway through the ten-minute song, El Ten Eleven tries out a little variation, speeding up the looped guitar riffs, then breaking down the percussion to a weighted silence. The rich guitar steals back in softly, joined by light drums. “Transitions” is the most theatrical song on the album, and it sets the tone for what follows. “Thanks Bill” has heavy bass and light treble guitars with chimes that give off a pleasant, joyous vibe. In this shorter track, changes in structure and tempo become more apparent: heavier, distorted guitars start to echo over growing percussion, building up to a crescendo before sinking back down.
“No One Died This Time!” experiments the most, with its very percussive, upbeat sound and rapid slap bass. But like “Yellow Bridges,” these mid-album tracks lag a little. They’re less interesting, less unique. “Yellow Bridges,” which features distorted guitars and a less “clean” sound than the other tracks, comes off as commercial, recycling rock tropes and clichés. While it eventually evolves into something more like “Thanks Bill” or “Transitions,” it sounds merely derivative of these earlier tracks.
The second half of the album reaches out beyond the sonic themes developed in the first half. A heavy, droning bass complements light, clapping percussion and a warm guitar riff on “Birth,” which has a dance rock beat that manages to be at once catchy and completely unpretentious. “Tiger Tiger” ventures into an ethereal, atmospheric sound, and “Lullaby” features high, treble guitars looped with a lower, richer guitar over sounds of waves washing in and receding.
Transitions is a work in progress, a fluid state of constant development and change. It will be exciting to see where this flux leads El Ten Eleven next.