As any regular reader of this blog understands, I do this because I love to write about music. I have, since college, in some form or another written about music. I don’t feel I approach it from a very academic or critical place. Music means far too much to me to write about it in any other fashion. This is true of my first article about the Capitol City Dusters in the Broadside at George Mason University and it is true now.
So when someone writes you an email and says they were looking for a review of a band and found your sight, as a laborer of love I get kind of excited. I especially get excited when they tell me it’s a review of a band I hold very near and dear to me. In this case that was Out_Circuit and when I received the correspondence I got happy. Someone else out in the interwebsphere cares about that band. Maybe they don’t care what I have to say (and I don’t believe they should), but just to know that people are seeking the things I care to write about makes me feel a bit better about the world.
The scary thing is when a stranger asks you if you would review their music. Because this is a labor of love, I want to write about things that either interest me or that I love. Generally everything I write about is stuff I seek, find by accident or buy. People rarely recommend music to me, and I am almost always skeptical. But, the music geek in me can’t resist. After all, the guy that asked me to review his band likes and knows the Out_Circuit. They aren’t exactly on the tip of everyone’s fingers. It takes effort to know about them.
So here I am, listening to In a Different Time and Place the debut album by a musical project called The Language of Termites. As I drift through this album tonight, after a day where my brain is exhausted, I find the space and atmosphere pleasantly comforting. The music is dynamic, but it is not demanding. The soft songs let me sit gently with in them, letting me take my time. This, tonight especially, is good.
The first thing you must know about this band is that they use the acoustic guitar as the primary melodic instrument. Through the whole album, nothing but acoustic guitar (okay I am at track 9, “This is the Ocean,” the stand out track so far, at the moment). This is a bold move and it serves this music well. I fear the employing of distortion and electric sound waves from the now standard instrument would disturb the area the listener has to breath. I don’t know the process in which they arrived at this aesthetic choice, but I feel it is the right one. While I think, maybe, and may agree with later, that some variance in that department might be interesting, I can’t help but applaud this move in a landscape of rock music so determined to beat you over the head with electricity and volume.
As a reviewer I could throw a lot of references at you in regards to The Language of Termites. This would give you a general idea of the approach, but it would be a far cry of explaining what you might hear. I never was very good at that to be quite honest. But I can tell you these things, I am reminded of bits of Cursive, though they sound nothing like them. The room left to breath is reminiscent of instrumental juggernauts The Mercury Program, but you will find no wondering, booming bass or xylophones. There is an approach to song that is familiar if you are a fan of John Frusciante. But this is, as a whole, a lot less frustrating then Sir John can be on an album. And as for Emily Frembgen, the vocalist, she sounds in tone and inflection very similar to Melissa Quinley sans the East Coast skepticism. She is soft and delicate and her voice seems to work in opposition and in conjunction to the music being made. It brings out the subtle hooks that are just becoming evident to me as I sit down with this music for the first time. So now, as a reviewer and geek I have given you references, that chances are you are not intimate with as much as I am. So they will mean little to you, but they mean a lot to me, because they speak to me.
I’m not sure where a band like The Language of Termites fits in with music today. They are not rock music, though they get their cues from that approach. They are not sugary pop, but they have hooks that are the foundation under the lush surface. They aren’t post rock and loud, but they have that type of intricate musicianship and yet they aren’t in your face. It’s music that is different, difficult and beautiful all in one package.
I can’t really sum up this band. If you asked me what I felt, at first listen I couldn’t tell you. Maybe that’s why I felt compelled to write this. I mean I had the choice of blowing it of. The person that sent me his art is a stranger to me and this is the internet, the most vacant space in all the universe, lush with meaningless ramblings and shit covered opinions. It’s music that challenges you, but it doesn’t bully you around and say “hey look at me fucker” and that is so incredibly rare. The images of their front page on their web site seems to say everything you could say about this band. Much more then I could. You should visit it now, here. You should think about taking this outside with you. That would probably be a good idea.