Imagine a more technically advanced and conventional version of early nineties Sonic Youth, and you've got Atlanta's Red Level Eleven. Mixing feedback and angular beats with pop songwriting, RLE revels in a constant state of discord and sweet bliss. Defying traditional band roles in popular alternative (an oxymoron?) music, guitarist Michelle Williams replaces the tiresome image of the angry young man, handling most of the songwriting and singing on this enjoyable debut. Her vocals are the highlight of the disc, sounding not unlike Youth's Kim Gordon in their dichotomous vulnerability and sinister undertones. Highly recommended. -Jeremiah

Intense climactic rock. Twangy at times, rhythmic at others. Building, driving music with incredible female vocals reminiscent of Chinchilla. The lyrics are well written and emotional. The music is distant and familiar. They use guitars for intros then break starting back up again with an eruption of sound. Think talented indie rock with strong female vocals. The nostalgic "Freshman Year" is my favorite track. Cool name, cooler packaging. CR

Atlanta's Red Level Eleven brings to mind two distinctive subsets of bands that were essential precursors to the "alternative music boom" of the early '90s. The band exudes the ramshackle, static-ridden exploration of certain SST bands (Dinosaur Jr., Minutemen, fIREHOSE) and unravels the jarring, ambient blueprints left behind by the distinctive 4AD label (The Pixies, The Breeders, Lush). Michelle Williams and Leigh Sabo's harmonic vocals, a la Kim/Kelly Deal or Miki Berenyi/Emma Anderson, coast on top of a jagged guitar attack that gives more than a passing nod to Dino Jr. misanthrope J. Mascis, bringing his old friend distortion along for the ride. Speaking from the finicky critic's POV, Fort Seduction could stand to be a little longer. The eight tracks laid down here, though, build a solid foundation on which RLE has plenty of room to expand. It isn't till the last couple of tunes, "Calling Orson" and "Utah," that the mix really begins to gel. That's not to say the album is sub-par at all. It's just that most of it could probably pass a blindfold test if put against Lush or early Breeders records. However, both of those bands have seemingly long since ridden off into the sunset and it doesn't look like there'll be a Pixies reunion as long as Frank Black can get around without a walker, so comparisons be hanged! Fort Seduction ain't a bad place to visit. Hell, you might even become a regular. ( - Michael Clay Andrews


I'm in Indie Rock heaven. The sticker on the cover of this cd tells me it sounds like a cross between Sonic Youth, The Pixies and Helium. At times the Helium resemblance is uncanny, which is great. My first impression however was a cross between Chokebore and Simon and Garfunkle with female vocals. Overall this CD is full of great mid tempo beats and dirty sounding guitars behind some really nice dual female vocals. I think this is self released so you might have some trouble finding it unless you order it from the band, which I highly suggest. (CS)

Red Level Eleven's Fort Seduction begins like a slightly more feedbacked Rainer Maria and, through the course of its eight songs, guitar rawks along the lines of Unwound or Atombombpocketknife. There's a nice give-and-take between tight, traditional indie rock tunes and more airy, melodic numbers. The former, like "Bent Steel" and "Is Pat Grogan Dead?" have their roots in the rocky ground of Drive Like Jehu, early Archers of Loaf and (of course) Sonic Youth. The later group, which includes "Freshmen Year" and "Brunswick Bridge," gets just the right amount of eerie echo around Michelle William's voice, creating a pretty (but unsettling) female-fronted mid-speed sound with some savory vocal hooks. The lyrics are hit or miss, ranging from references to the Gulf of Tonkin to loose descriptions of car crashes. The group wisely keeps them to a minimum and puts the focus on the dueling guitars. This strategy works well on the album's best track, "Utah" with a sing-songy several lines repeated "Scents sweet like New Orleans / Rain comes few and far between." Part of me wants to say I really like the alternate styles, but if I had to choose between the two, I would definitely take the four female-fronted tracks over the four semi-instrumentals. There are loads of crunchy, feedback-drenched bands out there trying to be Neil Young meets Frank Black, but markedly fewer indie bands with girls cooing oblique, stream of conscious poetry while guitars alternately lounge and lunge in the background. Overall, an interesting release from a band worth watching. Rating: 8531 e.b.


Fluid post-punk power-pop (yeah, I said pop) by way of The Pixies but without that band's unique quirkiness. What's left are lots of chunky, indie-style power chords, some fuzzy-howling lead guitars and a rhythm section that chug-a-lugs like a nice guy's version of Nirvana. Michelle Williams' angelic voice, in harmony with itself, is a dead ringer for those heavenly Azure Ray girls. Must be something in all that Georgia sunshine. Overall, a well-played but unstructured self-released debut, as if they've been playing these songs live for months and thought it was high time to get them down on tape. The result is a hit-and-miss mixture of solid Williams-led numbers, instrumentals and noisy howling by guitarist "vocalist" Patrick Hill. The Pixies/Breeders influence dominates -- think of this as a catchier version of Pod without the sticky imagery. When there are words, they don't say much -- mostly blank-verse dyslectic haikus like on the grungy "Brunswick Bridge": Cars of crash / Connect a bridge / Thick of fog / They couldn't hear. Huh? And while Williams coos with the best of them, a little more enunciation couldn't hurt. It's the overall sound that carries them through, though I can't wait to see what happens when they sit down and record a more coherent, unified project.

Rating: Yes Obligatory pull-quote: "The Pixies/Breeders influence dominates -- think of this as a catchier version of Pod without the sticky imagery." -Tim McMahan


The debut album from Atlanta's Red Level Eleven, Fort Seduction is full of delightful contrasts between lovely melody and math rock. Although one can pick out elements of June of 44, Poster Children, and Polvo, Red Level Eleven's sound is far from being simply derivative of its influences. The counterpoint of Patrick Hill's clear ringing guitar recorded on the right channel and Michelle Williams' fuzzed out guitar recorded on the left, complement each other without burying everything else in a muddy wall of sound. Leigh Sabo's sinewy bass adds a growl serious enough to put an end to any suspicions that this album may have emo-ish leanings. Greg Stevens on drums drives the group along relentlessly, keeping it from the pitfalls of geek rock noodling. More like an ensemble showcase than vocalist with back up band, the group offers a sampling of pretty harmonizing vocals on half of the 8 songs, two formidable instrumental pieces, and a couple of rousing battle cry anthems.

The first song, "Freshman Year," available as an MP3 download from the group's website, builds at a leisurely pace with a lightly chiming guitar drone and a spare cymbal cadence, fleshing out with Williams and Sabo intonating in two part harmony, then the drums and bass kick in to give the dreamy wash of sound a clear definition. The loveliness of the song belies the group's ability to rock out. It is, however, a good way for a distortion aficionado to entice an indie-wary sweetheart toward the Dark Side which is well represented by the second offering, "Bent Steel." A driving instrumental song reminiscent of Dirty-era Sonic Youth, it strikes with enough strident dissonance to blow away any remaining dream clouds. Song four, "The End Is Wild," has it all. The entwined voices of Williams and Sabo smolder with a subtle rage above a maelstrom of jangly guitar and crunchy bass. A frenzy of excitement builds and is reined in only to be built more intensely and the tumultuous ending is a satisfying distortion-filled conflagration.

Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, it seems a trifle short but the energy it contains in each of the eight songs more than makes up for quantity. There is something on Fort Seduction for everyone to enjoy, making it a great album to play when there are actual girls at the party or on a long road trip when neither the Jesus Lizard nor Tori Amos are going to be accepted by the person stuck in a car with a fan of neither one. - Gina Lorenz


Red Level Eleven are a foursome from Atlanta, GA with a new CD called Fort Seduction . There are songs with girly vocals, some with no vocals and songs that sound straight outta DC (in a Desoto not a Dischord kind of way). This little CD manages to conjure up quite an array of sounds, which is what makes it worth a listen.

When Fort Seduction starts you think "Did I forget to take Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation out of the CD player?" - then the vocals come in and this chicks voice is about a gazillion cigarettes shy of Kim Gordon's gruffness. They have that Sonic Youth dissonant reverb thing down pat. At least they are up front about their influences with a sticker on the front of the CD saying RIYD: Sonic Youth, Pixies and Helium. Although the band tips their hat to these influences they also have a sound very much their own.

If I had one complaint about Fort Seduction it would be the vocals, and this is not even a large complaint. The music just seems so heavy for such slight and sweet vocals. Songs like "Brunswick Bridge" and "The End is Wild" are so low end oriented and bassy the female vocals almost sound awkward. Not that the female vocalists of Red Level Eleven suck, far from, I just hear male vocals with this music. Not a very fair critique since I understand one of these ladies wrote a good deal of the music.

With my one complaint out of the way, let me point out Red Level Eleven's biggest assets. First of all, their drummer rocks. One of my favorite songs on the CD "Bent Steel" is an instrumental number augmenting his talent. Second, wherever they recorded and mixed this CD should get a pat on the back - Fort Seduction sounds great. Red Level Eleven's strongest point is their diversity in song writing. One minute there is a perky pretty little tune like "Hoyt Pollard" the next there is an angry Circus Lupus like anthem with "Calling Orson". Though the CD sounds very cohesive each song is different and stands out from the rest, no songs bleeding right into the next. Fort Seduction is full of individual parts that make up one great whole. - Jennifer Perkins

The sticker on the cover connects Red Level Eleven to Sonic Youth (early, I'm guessing) and the Pixies. Not hard to hear. There is a definite Surfer Rosa vibe here. I never complain about such things.

But I hear a sophistication here that rises above those specific influences. While adhering to the "maul and pop" theory, these folks also incorporate a few ideas from the Chicago noise workshop and then drape relatively intricate vocal work over the throb.

The overall concoction is intoxicating, a bare-bones rumble which can't quite hide some cool ideas lurking in the subconscious. Yeah, the stuff is noisy (it sounds great with the levels pinned), but don't let that fool you. There's some serious thought going on.

" Crafted yet unrestrained" is something of a theme of albums I've reviewed this time out. Red Level Eleven does it as well as anyone, and in its own style as well. Most impressive.

There must be something in the water down there in Georgia -- some kind of holy rock water. Atlanta-based Red Level Eleven continues in this fine and time honored musical tradition. There is something Pixies/Breederish about their sound; the two female vocalists contribute a harmonic (almost twee) prettiness to many of the songs, yet behind them, the guitars wail and crunch. It's an odd juxtaposition, but a compelling one. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than in "Freshman Year", the album opener. But the songs I find most captivating are the instrumental "Bent Steel" and "Calling Orson", a maelstrom of runaway guitars, screamed vocals and convulsive cymbals. -- az


Atlanta quartet Red Level Eleven score with their new self-titled disc, celebrated with a release show Feb. 10th at Eyedrum. Sinuous, sinister guitars explore the wreckage laid by rockslide drums, while dreamy, deadpan female vocals dance with the bass guitar in a sidewalk shadowplay. The eight-song CD is too brief, but a rewarding listen nonetheless, bringing to mind early Toenut with less of an emphasis on obvious quirkiness. - jeff clark

Red Level Eleven cranks up the volume

Red Level Eleven guitarists Michelle Williams and Patrick Hill have very different backgrounds: It might even be said that she's a little bit country, he's a little bit rock 'n' roll. But when they met at work (right here at Creative Loafing ), they found enough in common to try forming a band. Just goes to show that sometimes creative loafing can result in something more productive.

With Hill's roommate Greg Stevens on drums and the second in a string of three bassists, Red Level Eleven (the name is a Spinal Tap reference) began playing out, drawing positive comparisons to everything from Sonic Youth to aggressive touch football. They even popped out a debut CD, Fort Seduction , fairly early on.

But the one thing Red Level Eleven wanted to do but hadn't yet, was put their music on vinyl. "It was just too expensive," Hill says of doing an entire LP. Instead, they looked into doing a 7-inch single and asked fellow Atlantans The Close to join them. Now, with local indie-rock label Moodswing Records putting out a split single from the bands, Red Level Eleven finally has its wish.

Red Level Eleven's contribution, "The Listener" -- recorded at the Close's Slimmertwin Studios -- was the first song the band wrote with its third bassist, Ben Russell, a friend of Williams' from their hometown, Rome, Ga. "I liked their CD before I played with them," Russell says, "and I thought Greg was a better drummer than I was, so I decided I wanted to play bass with that guy."

Group members believe that what holds the band together despite lineup changes is that they were all friends before becoming bandmates. "Being in a rock band is not just about playing rock songs," Stevens says. "It's about chemistry, and when these four elements come together, it's a strong bond." - Tony Ware 01.23.02