El Ten Eleven — Jumping Frenchmen of Maine

I’m including a live video because it needs to be seen to be believed that these two superpowered lunatics are actually creating this music in real time with an arsenal of loop samplers. Their performances are as much a feat of hyper-specific athleticism as they are an indie rock dance party. Now, I love music, love it to the point of dangerous and foolhardy obsession, and yet, I’ve become more than a little jaded by most rock bands’ live shows. I don’t really see the point in paying too much money to listen to songs I already know backwards and forwards while asphyxiating in a cloud of someone else’s cologne. El Ten Eleven are that rare rock band who actually get me off my ass and into that sweaty little venue, if only because I still have trouble believing that they’re actually making this happen live.

Of course, I also relish the opportunity to drool over Kristian Dunn’s astonishing live rig. The man is an absolute master of knob tweaking and tone, especially when it comes to sculpting the low end. Jumping Frenchmen of Maine contains within it the most delicious bass guitar distortion I’ve ever heard in my life, a sound so unnaturally thick and perfect I can almost see its intricate geometry as it slides down my ear canal (it starts about 50 seconds into the live recording, before coming fully into itself and dominating the rest of the song).

That’s not even the whole rig. I can’t find a picture of the full thing, but I suppose a man’s secrets must remain his own

A key component of Kristian Dunn’s repertoire is ample use of a double-necked guitar/bass combination, the stuff of legend. I can only assume he had to slay a two-headed dragon to earn the right to swing that thing around. And when that particular technological marvel begins to make his life too easy, he puts it down and picks up a fretless bass (as he does in this particular track). With the help of a pitch shifting whammy pedal, he gives himself access to just about every slice of the sonic register, and boy, does he use it. In this song alone, he pretty much covers the full range possible given the instrument in his hands (check out that torrent of fills around 2:50). Any lower, and he’d be causing earthquakes. Any higher, and he’d be torturing the neighborhood dogs.

Another key piece of Kristian Dunn’s repertoire is the leaping double stompbox kick: a precise and beautiful martial arts maneuver bringing shoegaze to a whole new level of animation. As if the man weren’t already idiosyncratic enough. Just when I thought I’d seen and heard all there was to experience in the realm of rock music, El Ten Eleven take the stage to push the envelope in ways I didn’t even know the damn thing could stretch.

Here’s a link to Kristian’s patreon page, in case you feel like making the world (of music) a better place: