Sometimes, labels like “experimental music” and “ambient indie rock” seem a little silly.
But for the Los Angeles-based duo El Ten Eleven, they seem to fit.
Consider one of the band’s signature songs, “Jumping Frenchmen of Maine.” They didn’t really write it about Maine, and they don’t really say anything about Maine in it, given that the song is strictly instrumental.
But when you hear it, it somehow sounds like it could be the sounds of jumping Frenchmen, in Maine. There are electronic pulses that sound like feet stomping as well as a steady stream of sounds such as “oof” and “ssss” that conjure up images of a body in constant motion.
“It’s a real condition, called Jumping Frenchmen of Maine, where these lumberjacks in Maine apparently were flipping all around,” said Tim Fogarty, who plays electronic and regular drums in the duo.
Fogarty said Kristian Dunn, the band’s double-neck guitarist and bass player, had read about the condition, and it inspired him to write an instrumental song.
If that’s not experimental music, what is?
El Ten Eleven will be playing Thursday — and very likely performing “Jumping Frenchmen of Maine” — at the newly reopened Empire on Congress Street in Portland.
Jumping Frenchmen of Maine is listed on many medical websites as an extremely rare disorder characterized by “an unusually extreme startle reaction.” The name comes from the fact that it was first seen in French Canadian lumberjacks in Maine and Quebec in the late 19th century.
Medical experts have been unable to come up with a cause. But El Ten Eleven was able to come up with a song.
The band takes its name from an airplane, the Lockheed L-1011. Fogarty and Dunn met more than 10 years ago in another L.A. band that never really took off. They started playing together, creating music that sort of melded “everything we absorbed listening to growing up,” Fogarty said.
The band has released five albums and toured the world, creating music with no lyrics and just two guys on stage.
The music ranges from electronica to jazzy riffs and just plain indescribable stuff. Dunn makes very creative use of effects pedals for his instruments.
Fogarty thinks the fact that they are restricted by being a duo, and by not having to worry about blending music and lyrics, actually is freeing for them as artists.
“It’s kind of nice, because it gives us a plan to work from,” he said. “We know we have to come up with something we can do live, just us as a duo, and no lyrics. So really, within those constraints, it forces us to be creative.”
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: