There’s not an inch of gloom hovering over El Ten Eleven’s 10th LP, “Banker’s Hill.”
The nine instrumental tracks that make up the album are all bright and hopeful. The sound is open and magnetic, complex but not overplayed, circular without ever being redundant. The final product is quite effortless. Or at least, that’s how it comes across.
Yet, giving birth to Banker’s Hill was anything but easy, according to bassist and composer Kristian Dunn. Before he started to record the album, he had been working on so many songs, for so long, that he had begun to lose focus. At some point, he had stopped hearing the music altogether, he said. And for someone who grew up catching notes in the strangest of places -- including the swishing and humming of a running dish washer -- that is pretty unusual.
What made the difference with this record, according to Dunn, was the decision to work with a producer for the first time since El Ten Eleven came to be. Dunn explains that he and drummer Tim Fogarty were looking for someone who could be more than an engineer, someone who could add to the creative process.
That’s why he decided to meet with producer Sonny Diperri, who previously worked alongside bands like Animal Collective and the Drums. The two were chatting at a coffee shop in Los Angeles when it became immediately clear that Diperri was the right man for the job.
“In the beginning of our career, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, so I didn’t want a producer,” Dunn said. “But on this last record, I needed someone helping me go through the songs and see what was working and what wasn’t working. I wanted to bring someone who would be a producer and engineer, so they could help us record the album. It’s been really helpful for us. He simplified a lot of my play.... He really did the producer’s job.”
Maybe that’s why "Banker’s Hill" never sounds accidental, each song perfectly following the next, each evocative of a specific emotion. So, “This Morning With Her Having Coffee” is reminiscent of a peaceful morning ritual between lovers, and “You Are Enough” quickly becomes an antidote to anxiety.
Still, when he composes, Dunn says it’s only his own emotions that he has in mind. He writes what he likes.
“But if other people feel the same way ... that’s good,” he concluded.
Ombretta Di Dio is a story producer at NBC San Diego and a stand-up comedian from Italy. Contact her here.