Dengue Fever Escape From Dragon House Deluxe Edition CD
Los Angeles based Cambodian and American band Dengue Fever released their first album (2003's self-titled) with no idea how it would be received. Was Khmer-rock, or the very idea of covering lost classic Cambodian songs, even something that would resonate with music fans?
For their sophomore album, Dengue Fever switch away from their nearly all-covers repertoire to try something a little more bold -- writing originals while still developing their rock-music-into-Cambodian-pop-and-back-again approach. It's actually a good move in order to escape from lingering questions of "just" being a museum piece of a group.
Happily the six-piece step up, introducing an interesting curveball as well with a newly professed interest in the upbeat, horn-driven Ethiopian pop/funk Rock of the '60s and '70s collected in the Ethiopiques series.
Though one could cynically wonder if the band is going to end up incorporating a new retro scene per album, Dengue Fever clearly are out to entertain by whatever means, and by putting a slew of things together, create something new and unexpected.
Chhon Nimol's singing is again top-notch, even slipping in a bit of hip-hop flow on "Sui Bong," while her greater fluency in English also creates more of a truly unique sound for the band. The Holtzman brothers again provide the musical core, with Ethan's work on organ providing the kind of smoky funk appropriate to the proceedings.
Zac's guitar adds good crunch, but it's the strength of the overall arrangements that truly matters the most, as songs slip from bass/drum breakdowns to horn-driven explosions of joy.
Standout moments include the nervous, almost early Cure-style introduction to "Tap Water," the beautiful ballad "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong," and the acid-trip drama of "One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula," which deserves to be a neo-psychedelic classic.
Dengue Fever Escape From Dragon House Track Listing:
1. We Were Gonna
2. Sni Bong
3. Tip My Canoe
4. Tap Water
5. Sleepwalking Through the Mekong
6. One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula
7. Escape From Dragon House
8. Made of Steam
9. Lake Dolores
10. Saran Wrap
12. Escape From Dragon House
13. Made of Steam
14. Sleepwalking Through the Mekong
15. Sni Ha