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Escape From Dragon House (Deluxe Version)

Dengue Fever

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Album Review

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. The one cover this time around, "Tip My Canoe," is of legendary Cambodian singer Ros Serey Sothea, with Zac duetting with Nimol, a feat they repeat in English, Nimol taking the lead, on the passionate "Made of Steam." It would be striking to see what Dengue Fever could do with engaging fusions of the current day — there are pop, techno, and hip-hop numbers worldwide as joyfully inspired and specifically local as those older songs the group adores. No matter, though, so long as the band keeps creating such excellent work.

Biography

Formed: 2001 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Even when you consider the cultural cross-pollination that goes on in large metropolitan areas, L.A.'s Dengue Fever had perhaps the strangest genesis of any band in recent memory. It's odd enough for a group of white musicians to cover psychedelic rock oldies from Cambodia, but finding a bona fide Cambodian pop star to front the band — and sing in Khmer, no less — is the kind of providence that could only touch a select few places on Earth. Formed in L.A.'s hipster-friendly Silver Lake...
Full Bio
Escape From Dragon House (Deluxe Version), Dengue Fever
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