Emily Frembgen and the Language of Termites at the Sidewinder Tavern, Sept. 14, 2013, a Review of Sorts…
Four people, although geographically separated, have found a way to tap into that mysterious connection the best musicians have with each other. Bassist Victor Foster, singer and guitarist Emily Frembgen, drummer Tim Reed and guitarist Farrell Styers formed a band they call the Language of Termites. They move in and out of each other’s lives in pairs or threes, but all four of them are rarely in the same place and time.
The Language of Termites played their first live show in October 2012 to celebrate the release of their second album, Pretérito Perfeito. But only three of the band members were there. They recruited guitarist Travis Stevens, who ably filled in for the absent Farrell. Farrell was in Kyrgyzstan and sent secret tones.
But then on September 14, 2013, magic happened in Globeville, that lost Denver neighborhood between I70 and the railroad tracks. Singer and songwriter Emily Frembgen had scheduled a solo show at the Sidewinder Tavern, a bar that comes with an old-fashioned ballroom attached. Victor was going to accompany Emily on guitar, something he had done at two of her previous shows, Titwrench, the previous Saturday, and the ancient but still beautiful Mercury Cafe, the Thursday before that. Emily was visiting from New York and there was talk that Farrell was going to be in town on a visit before moving from Kyrgyzstan to Belgium. Yes, the Termites travel a lot. And since Victor and Tim actually live in Denver, it was decided: the Language of Termites would play their first ever show with all four members of the band.
A quick rehearsal was scheduled the day of the show. They even taught Farrell some of the new songs in the car on the way to Globeville. It was the first day of any real sunshine after three days of fitful rain. And it was Emily’s birthday. A good day for magic.
Behind a multicolored scarf draped over her microphone stand, Emily sang her wistful, beautifully written songs with a detached charm. Tim played drums with a hint of jazz tones. Farrell and Victor alternated on bass and guitar, both adding just the right color to the music.
Despite the lack of any real rehearsal time, the Termites played with quiet passion and captured some of the mystery hidden in their two overlooked albums. There were a couple of minor flubs, and one false start, but the audience didn’t seem to care. They watched attentively and gave each song enthusiastic applause.
Emily’s songs had a different sort of shine than when she sings them solo. They work either way, but this band gives them a surge of energy that removes the hush and deepens their melancholy. To really appreciate what Emily is doing you should experience her songs both ways, solo and with this band.
Should the Language of Termites actually find themselves in the same space for an extended time they would likely become a major force, but maybe part of their allure is the mystery their zigzag geography gives them. Farrell is off to Belgium soon and Emily will return to New York.
I called this band “Denver’s Velvet Underground” because, although the two bands sound very different, it seems the Termites explore similar dark edges as their beloved forebears. The Termites just look at the shadows in a different way. I think if Lou Reed knew what his mischievous grandchildren were up to he’d be smiling proudly.
You can find both Language of Termites albums at: termites.bandcamp.com
And Emily Frembgen’s music is on Tumblr: emilyfrembgen.tumblr.com
Photos and text © 2012-2013 Joe Beine