The rewarding instrumental rock of the Los Angeles group El Ten Eleven is built from dynamic melodies, bold wordless narratives, lovely drones and an ever-shifting palette of inventive rhythms and guitar textures.
El Ten Eleven churns up spacious drama, alternately brawny and tender, rocking out righteously in the process--impressive, because the band consists of just two players: Kristian Dunn, whose ax of choice is a double-neck guitar-bass hybrid, and percussionist Tim Fogarty, who helms both electronic and acoustic drum kits.
On this, the duo's second album, Dunn and Fogarty refine their attack, creating hypnotic neo-krautrock ("3 Plus 4," the title track), rugged riffage ("Hot Cakes," "Living on Credit Blues") and ethereal shoegazer soundscapes, such as "Dax Pierson" and the 7 1/2-minute closer, "Bye Annie, Bye Joe, Bye Michael, Bye Jake."
Once in a while, El Ten Eleven's songs might seem a bit skimpy. The brief "Music for Staring at Ceilings" is not nearly as tedious as its title doth protest, and Dunn and Fogarty could have stretched out for more than its two-plus minutes to develop the compositional ideas therein.
Listening to Every Direction Is North is not unlike hearing all the good stuff from Tortoise, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Chrome and Trans Am--with none of the missteps, fluff or filler in which those otherwise-great bands occasionally indulge.