Garage Rock Cambodian Style
Dengue Fever is a group whose roots and influences lay in Cambodian psychedelia of the 1960s. Reminiscent of Rhino’s highly acclaimed Nuggets series channeled through an eclectic assortment of styles, along with chanteuse Chhon Nimol singing in her native Khmer tongue, on paper this band may not sound too accessible. However, the freshly released Escape From the Dragon House is quite the bowl of tasty surprises. From the outset, listeners will be immersed in the thunderously seductive world of organ-driven garage rock in “”We Were Gonna.”” Audiences familiar with ? and the Mysterians may feel they know this territory until Nimol’s beautiful voice spirits them away to this world of Cambodian proto-punk beauty. “”Sui Bong”” brings more heavy guitars, organs and drums with Nimol exercising a bit of a hip-hop delivery at times. The centerpiece here is “”Tip My Canoe,”” a cover of Cambodian legend Ros Serey Sothea. The guitar and strolling drumbeat at its center, the vocals by Nimol and guitarist Zac Holtzman and organs, synthesizers and horns weave through each other creating an intricate tapestry of a pop song.
ame While the prime elements of this music are throwbacks to a bygone but often revisited era, listening to Escape From the Dragon House proves this band has a very modern outlook. In a way, Dengue Fever is doing for garage rock what Stereolab have (repeatedly) with lounge music: astonishing listeners. The band is tight and organized, yet songs like the neo-psychedelic gem “”One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula”” feel very relaxed and almost improvisational. This album will continuously amaze all who are willing to put it in the player.