Experiencing an unexpected tragedy or loss often provokes a period of self-reflection, a time to contemplate one’s own place and purpose in the world. That was true for El Ten Eleven’s Kristian Dunn. When a beloved family member passed, Dunn found his own reflections on life emerging in the music he composed. Those expressions led to the creation of Tautology a sonic meditation on the arc of human life, composed in three parts.
Over the course of three discs, Tautology is, in Dunn’s words, “a representation of life from the teenage years, through middle-age, until the end of life.” The sounds on the album echo Dunn’s own experiences, veering from aggressive metallic riffs to blissful ambient soundscapes. And while there are shared melodies and harmonies through all three records, each one has its own distinct qualities: Tautology I, which represents adolescence, is angsty, aggressive and occasionally depressive; Tautology II is head-noddy and mid-tempo, and represents middle age; while Tautology III, quiet and ambient, represents one’s golden years.
Tautology is not a typical rock album, and El Ten Eleven are not a typical rock band. For seventeen years the instrumental duo of Dunn (bass/guitar) and Tim Fogarty (drums) have flourished outside the accepted norms of rock orthodoxy, releasing eight full length albums and four EPs, and performing over 750 live shows. Utilizing inventive arrangements and a masterful use of looping, El Ten Eleven create a sound much bigger than the sum of its parts. Joyful Noise Recordings will digitally release each of Tautology’s three discs, individually and in sequential order, beginning May 1st, with a physical 3LP release on September 18, 2020.
Dunn explains there’s no right or wrong way to listen to Tautology, suggesting that a deep dive into the full project will yield rewards. “I think someone could listen to any one of the discs by themselves and have a really great experience—even if they didn't know about the others. But if they do want to go deeper, I think there will be a lot of interesting stuff to discover. It works symbolically and it all connects. I think this is the best record we've ever done.”