Another wholesome take on experimental
On August 10, El Ten Eleven made their return with Banker’s Hill. Comprised of just two extremely talented individuals, Kristian Dunn on guitar and bass and Tim Fogarty on drums, El Ten Eleven have consistently wowed new and old fans alike by creating intricately written and performed songs as a duo. With the clever use of multiple looping pedals and a double neck guitar, El Ten Eleven are able to experiment with unconventional sound textures and hypnotizing melodies.
Though El Ten Eleven drew heads with their surprisingly small lineup of members for the release of their self-titled debut, they continue to impress with projects like These Promises Are Being Videotaped and Transitions. In 2017, they teamed up with Emile Mosseri to create Unusable Love, their first ever vocal collaboration. Their latest release seems to reflect a continuation of this newfound openness to collaborate; they opened their doors for the very first time to an outside producer, Sonny DiPerri. Though fans may have been concerned of significant stylistic changes, Banker’s Hill remains as consistently solid as the rest of El Ten Eleven’s discography.
The album opens up with “Three and a Half High and Rising,” a jovial track filled with upbeat basslines and twinkling synths. When combined with the bouncy drums, the track opens up Banker’s Hill with an incredibly danceable moment of what seems like pure fun. Though the track is lighthearted, the electric guitars are anything but. Full of vigor, they amp up the intensity in a way that adds to the joyfulness of the song. These same guitars also strip and slow down into a gentle melody that soothes rather than riles up. Joined with the same twinkling synths from before, “Three and a Half High and Rising” is full of calculated twists and turns that explore the different ways to express and experience happiness.
This kind of infectious positivity can be found throughout Banker’s Hill, but it is nowhere more present than on “You Are Enough.” Starting with an almost R&B drum beat, “You Are Enough” takes its time to build up. It is joined by soft guitar melodies and electronic chirps and slides, creating a whimsical tone often unseen in experimental music. A unique bassline and smashing electric guitars create a gorgeous compliment to the softness of the previous melody. After a few moments of electronic melodies, the song breaks down into a light acoustic guitar melody whose elegance shines through its simplicity. With this, it brings the high down to a comforting lullaby, which eventually fades into ambient rumblings. Marked with brightly sharp electric guitar tones that splash into the forefront, the acoustic guitar takes on this same melody. Soon it explodes into an upbeat melody paired with those wonderful sliding synths. Paired with the heartwarming title, the song truly seems like a musical representation of unabashed self-acceptance and the joy that comes with such inner peace.
Though Banker’s Hill is filled with similarly uplifting soundbites, “This Morning with Her, Having Coffee” captures a different type of happiness. With ambient tones and steady drums, it starts off and stays relatively mellow throughout. Gentle guitar riffs and looped chords slowly pile onto each other before being swept away for different melodies. The boisterous guitars of “Three and a Half and Rising” or the electronica of “Phenomenal Problems” and “Reverie” are present but take a decided back seat to the relaxed melodies in “This Morning with Her, Having Coffee.” Everything is pleasantly cyclical, perhaps emulating the comforting routines and rituals that are shared with loved ones as the title suggests. Though much of Banker’s Hill revolves around one’s own relationship with positivity, the album closes with a much more shared experience.
El Ten Eleven’s most recent project brings back what they do best–much needed uplifting tunes in an otherwise bleak experimental genre. They apply the same techniques and auditory curiosity that many avant-garde rock groups use to create something on the opposite side of the spectrum. Banker’s Hill is another testament from El Ten Eleven to the diversity that experimental music can capture. Using meditative repetition and unique textures, they innovated and created yet another optimistic oasis, much needed in the dubious and rocky times of today.