With the release of Banker’s Hill, their seventh album, L.A. post-rock duo El Ten Eleven remind us why they’ve stayed relevant for 15 years in a genre where so many great groups are typecast as unoriginal, and for good reason.
The whole concept of post-rock is a bit exhausted in this day in age; the idea that anybody can craft a post-rock record with the right instruments and effects (both organic and technology-based) is not far from the truth. Being in the music business, I have seen many bands come and go while doing so.
So, the question becomes, what is it that makes El Ten Eleven so special? And to that I say that just like the best post-rock groups (Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, Sigur Rós) they are able to consistently put out a different, innovative sound with each new record.
On Banker’s Hill bandmates Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogerty have put together a 9-song, 43-minute body of work packed with emotion, dynamism and a palpable atmosphere that sounds like a melding of Tycho’s 2014 album Awake (in terms of tight ambience, especially on “Reverie”) and Explosions In The Sky’s 2016 LP The Wilderness (in relation to how the soundscapes grow with the progression of each song).
What truly gives Banker’s Hill its own unique aura is the mood. It’s not lighthearted, per se, but full of warmth that perfectly balances moments of pensiveness with elaborate culminations where all the components bleed into one another (the track “You Are Not Enough” is one of the finest examples of this).
Banker’s Hill can best be regarded as a steadily electric collection of music, all of which works together as a unit. It takes on the sound of a full-fledged session, despite there being only two men behind it. With its mix of beautiful guitar work (Dunn), melodic effects and explorative drums (Fogerty), the band is unafraid to explore different tempos, patterns, loops and progressions multiple times within each track – all while staying true to the core theme.
And because they challenge the song structures so succinctly, the music never feels repetitive or overstretched. A truly noteworthy effort.