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El Ten Eleven Are Anything but Accidental on Saturday Night

November 14th, 2016

El Ten Eleven – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 12, 2016

(Photo: Rozette Rago)

(Photo: Rozette Rago)

Was it an accident that the lights went down at Music Hall of Williamsburg for Saturday’s El Ten Eleven show at exactly 10:11? Maybe yes, maybe no, but with those guys, it doesn’t feel like anything is an accident. For Kristian Dunn on basses and guitars and Tim Fogarty on drums, precision is key. Their songs are constructions of riffs and loops and samples and beats, and in many ways it’s as much math and engineering as anything else. Within the first two songs, Dunn dazzled with complicated double taps on his double-neck guitar-bass, utilized an EBow, expertly layered multiple sampled melodies and had Fogarty bang out a riff on his bass with drumsticks. But as the show progressed, it was clear that there was an emotional core to that precision, that the serious gear and the serious talent made it possible to make inspired music that was fun to dance to.

“Living on Credit Blues” about “how annoying it is when you’re poor,” according to Dunn, found a moving melody, a humanity in the how’d-they-do-that playing. “Disorder,” a Joy Divison cover, exhibited a lyrical beauty in its instrumental El Ten Eleven form. “Fanshawe,” off their self-titled debut album, was a gorgeous piece of bass playing. Throughout the set, Dunn was a Seurat of the strings, a musical pointillist creating awe-inspiring artwork out of large numbers of individually expressed notes. The band sounded great, their constant touring and a genuine love of what they’re doing shining through. They also looked great, with their own onstage rig providing dramatic multicolored backlighting and atmospheric smoke to enhance the music. The middle of the set was dedicated to several yet-to-be-named new pieces, one feeling like the theme song for a video-game villain, another had light-touch six-string guitar notes melting in a floor of low-end drum-machine furnace that vibrated the room.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the band brought out Emile Mosseri from the Dig to sing vocals, quite possibly an El Ten Eleven first. Mosseri’s gliding falsetto worked almost perfectly with Dunn and Fogarty’s sound, pointing to perhaps a new direction for the veteran duo. The latter portion of the show was consumed by old “hits”—including “I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool,” “Connie” and “My Only Swerving”—that had the crowd giddy at each ecstatic climax. When Dunn announced that they had reached the end of the show, it was a bit of a pump fake as they delivered three more songs, with the show-closing “Transitions” a lengthy, multipart composition that delivered on several levels, ultimately peaking at just the right moment, which was, I am sure, no accident at all. —A. Stein | @Neddyo