Kyle Loomis is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily music columnist.
Indie rock duo El Ten Eleven kicked off its 2012 winter tour Thursday at SLO Brewing Co., bringing its awe-inspiring sounds — soaked in jaw-dropping effects — to the Central Coast and leaving most people in the audience wondering how exactly just two guys are producing so many layers of melody and beat.
Seemingly aware of our curiosity, bassist and guitarist Kristian Dunn reassured the audience mid-set that the music we were hearing was indeed being played live, and nothing was accompanied by pre-recorded tracks.
The Los Angeles-based band is comprised of drummer Tim Fogarty and Dunn, who switched between a fretless bass and a double-neck guitar/bass. Unorthodox instrumentals make for a unique sound, and without the utilization of any vocals, El Ten Eleven depends heavily on these unusual instruments as the driving force behind its tracks.
So how is it that these two musicians can produce what would normally require a four or five-member band? The answer lies on the ground by Dunn’s feet, where approximately a dozen foot pedals provide Dunn with the means to create such a complexity of sounds.
Armed with his double-neck, Dunn played a melody on his guitar, pressed a pedal and shifted his hands to the bass in order to add a new portion to the track as the prior melody continued. The crucial element to this equation is a tool called a looper, and Dunn said in a February 2012 interview with music blog The Music Ninja that he has as many as seven or eight parts of a track looping at one time.
Confused? I was, too. I still am. I spent the majority of the band’s set on Thursday night trying to decipher its methods. Nevertheless, at the surface level, El Ten Eleven’s experimental rock music was delightfully mellow, spacey and with a hint of psychedelic influence.
The duo’s set featured music from its newest album, “Transitions,” which was released in November 2012. Structurally, the tracks from “Transitions” are bizarre, often lacking in a defined framework. Some tunes, such as the album’s title track, extended beyond the traditional three-to-four-minute length. This loose structure, when coupled with the band’s heavy dose of melodic layers and sound effects, encourages listeners’ minds to wander, as if stream of consciousness literature were to be expressed in musical form.
Adding to the hypnotism, the stage at SLO Brew was equipped with a backdrop that glowed with bright colors — an added feature that isn’t typically at SLO Brew concerts. Oftentimes, light and stage productions are so elaborate that they overshadow the music itself. Not so on Thursday night. El Ten Eleven’s lights succeeded in promoting the entrancing effects of its music without distracting the audience from the true jaw-dropping aspects of the band — the ridiculous complexities of its musicianship.
All things considered, El Ten Eleven’s performance at SLO Brew was superb — with a mere $10 cover. When it comes to great performances in an intimate setting for a reasonable price, SLO Brew is among the best in the Central Coast.
Thursday night’s opening act, White Arrows (also hailing from Southern California), set the tone for a fun night with danceable, psychedelic pop tunes. The band featured tracks from its first full-length album, “Dry Land Is Not a Myth,” released in June 2012. The band continued to tour with El Ten Eleven in Oakland, Calif. on Jan. 11 and in Sacramento, Calif. on Jan. 12.
El Ten Eleven will continue its winter 2013 tour, travelling throughout California and performing in other states in the western United States, culminating in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Feb. 10.