El Ten Eleven draw inevitable comparisons to Tortoise and Ratatat, but its electronic post-rock suffers from a bland, characterless impact that the band’s peers avoid by means of formidable technical mastery and bad-boy flamboyance. With electronic drums, buzzing guitar, and shimmering arrangements, the duo has the sound of post-rock nailed, but the music isn’t progressive enough to be post-anything. The trouble for a band like El Ten Eleven is where to go next after three full-length albums, and on It’s Still Like a Secret, it shows. If anything, this record is tighter and more conventional than the band has been before.
The implicit titular nod to Built to Spill’s 1998 classic Keep It Like a Secret is a baffling one, since the two albums have little in common aside from an emphatic lead guitar and the position of fourth in the artist’s discography. True, on a handful of tracks here, such as “Anxiety Is Cheap” and “Cease and Persist”, one can imagine Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch feeling right at home with the layered rhythms mapped out by Kristian Dunn’s guitar loops and Tim Fogarty’s drumming. In the end though, such thinking only reinforces the notion that something is missing.