El Ten Eleven – Mercury Lounge – April 29, 2009May 4th, 2009
About two-thirds of the way into El Ten Eleven’s late-night set at Mercury Lounge, a guy in the crowd muttered “holy shit.” It summed up my feelings exactly. There are few bands out there that make people involuntarily curse like that, and these guys—just a bass-and-drums duo—are in that category.
There are three ways to enjoy El Ten Eleven: 1. You can sit there and wonder where all that music comes from. (Yeah, it’s just two musicians, but there’s a deep layering of loops, samples and overdubs.) 2. You can marvel at the technical talent. (These guys—Kristian Dunn, on basses, guitars and all those pedals, and Tim Fogarty, on drums—are damn good. Whether it’s Dunn simultaneously double-tapping melody and bass lines on two separate necks of the same instrument or Fogarty going part man, part machine, there’s plenty to keep the most critical of music geeks agape.) And, lastly, 3. You can just sit back and enjoy the music.
All of that gadgetry and talent don’t mean anything if the output’s no good. But with El Ten Eleven, that’s not a problem. This is an electro-dance-indie rock that feeds the body and the brain. At times, the set was the stuff that fills the HAL 9000’s dreams and at other times it was the disco grooves that Stormtroopers get down to after a long day on the Death Star. Dunn coaxed sounds from the beyond and then wrapped new sounds around the old ones—as if he were going back in time to play music with himself over and over again. If you ever wondered what would happen if you time-traveled and met yourself in the past, now we know that you could make some kick-ass music. —A. Stein