How things work seems to be a consistent obsession for people; it’s one of the many strains of curiosity that folks can’t seem to shake as they age. There’s something so fascinating about the complexity of the gears in a grandfather clock or how cops solve crimes from the tiniest details. (The later would explain the dozens of CSIs on CBS at any given moment.)
The appeal of the how-to extends across many strains in our society. When it comes to music, L.A.’s El Ten Eleven may have built part of its audience out of people who are enamored by the band’s ability to put together their sound. The duo – drummer Tim Fogarty and bassist/guitarist Kristian Dunn – make densely-layered, danceable post-rock songs it sounds like an army is performing with them.
As Chicagoans at Schubas on Sunday can report, the duo Does It Themselves. Indeed, part of the pleasure of seeing El Ten Eleven live is witnessing these lush compositions come to life. It’s so mesmerizing being able to watch Dunn’s fingers dance along the fret of his double necked bass-guitar that it’s easy to forget the band is playing some infectious tunes at the same time.
Similar to some of the tracks on the groups’ three albums, the set flowed along with an almost mechanical pace: one song keyed up after another, one chord followed another, one guitar pedal modulation succeeded another. Yet, Dunn and Fogarty’s energy brought out the human side that often can get hidden in songs with the kind of mass modulation that El Ten Eleven does so well.
Be it the new songs the band rolled out, or old crowd favorites like “My Only Swerving” and “Hot Cakes,” or a thoughtful and lovingly performed cover of Joy Division’s “Disorder,” El Ten Eleven’s string picking, beat contorting presence – not necessarily it’s “how to” essence – was a present.