Blame it on the ’60s throwback vibe, the stabs of guitar and the distinct tones of the Farfisa organ, but Dengue Fever sound like they’ve come straight out of a spy movie and straight into your earholes. There’s an air of mystery to frontwoman Chhom Nimol’s intoxicating vocals that bring the band much further than the simple label of world music (a trite moniker often devoid of much meaning other than the shit you hear at Starbucks). It’s been about two years since Dengue Fever has put out any new recorded material (save for an unearthed live LP from 2009), though they’ve been heavily active in touring and charitable endeavors. Now that The Girl From the North EP is out, fans are well sated for the band’s future endeavors.
You could give a quick look at the meager amount of tracks and immediately write The Girl From the North off as nothing more than a glorified single with a B-side and bonus track, but all three songs are standalone tours de force. It’s simply quality, not quantity. Opening track “Taxi Dancer” is a blur of handclaps and call and response vocals racing down the highway with Nimol at the helm. She drives a tight ship, each yearning harmony fading into the next bit of melody as the song drifts along, anchored only by the occasional arpeggio traded between guitar and organ.
“Deepest Lake on the Planet” rolls in with bursts of drums, initially shifting the focus back to the instrumental before Nimol’s tender vocals break through. It’s yet another solid endeavor before the album’s eponymous closing track seems to gather the best of both songs and meld them into something truly special. The Girl From the North doesn’t just serve as a reminder that Dengue Fever still exists; it’s a small but powerful missive that the band is sonically thriving. They’ve got their own record label, a strong fan base in Cambodia, and are finally starting to make waves outside of their LA home base. Whatever happens next, it’s clear that Dengue Fever is on the rise with nowhere to go but up.