After producing (and sometimes engineering) six albums completely on their own, you would imagine that El Ten Eleven would be stuck in their ways. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. For their seventh full-length release, the post-rock duo signed to Top-Shelf Records and teamed up with producer Sonny DiPerri, whose claim to fame includes working with Animal Collective and Portugal. The Man. ‘Banker’s Hill’ is the result.
If you know El Ten Eleven’s previous material, you’ll know that they are known for their strange compositions and ability to make their songs so much bigger seems possible for a duo. The band have thankfully stuck to what they know, producing something that is both expected and unexpected at the same time. The progressive ‘Three and a Half Feet and Rising’ is a song of many chapters. The various effects on the instruments push them to their limits, giving the song a great breadth and depth. It tells you that although the production process may have changed, the inspiration and creativity certainly hasn’t.
Filmmakers could use ‘Phenomenal Problems’ in a film score. This quaint and floaty track has an atmosphere you would expect to find in a soundtrack to a rom-com movie. Loop pedals work effortlessly to cement each element together, whilst a bold rhythm guitar signals the song’s turning point.
The duo does not use vocals in their work. But in ‘You Are Enough’, bending guitar riffs seem to show where a “woo!” would be. This is also the song that explicitly shows the album’s purpose of portraying beauty in anxiety. The midway point sees a positive guitar matched with unsettling undertones, before the track returns to calmness.
The title track is slow building and atmospheric, allowing you to get comfortable for the six-minute ride. By the four-minute mark, the track becomes bouncy, lifting the moodiness and leaving positivity. Layered final moments offer an insight into the duo’s ability to give the bass some space without detracting from the surrounding sounds.
This album, like much of El Ten Eleven’s work, might not work on a first listen. The changes in the songs might seem out of place and distracting. But if you’re willing to give it another go, the compositions start to alter at just the right points, and you’ll start to warm to it. Like most experimental records, ‘Banker’s Hill’ won’t be for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a try.