Release Date: Jan 22, 2008
Record label: M80
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Three albums in the novelty has worn off, but Dengue Fever has smartly chosen to keep evolving. While that means their unquestionably unique offering no longer startles, it's no less riveting -- Venus on Earth is at once the band's most accessible and most varied release. A recap: when first heard from in 2003 on their self-titled debut, Dengue Fever was like no other band, a bunch of L.A.
Venus on Earth, the third album from L. A. -based Cambodian pop outfit Dengue Fever, arrives on the heels of what has been a very good past few years for the band.
Released in the UK at last, in time for Dengue Fever's appearance at a whole batch of UK summer festivals, this is the third album by the quirky Los Angeles band who set out to revive the pop styles that once flourished in Cambodia, before the country's music scene was brutally crushed by the Khmer Rouge. Formed by guitarist Zac Holtzman, who has a beard worthy of ZZ Top and became fascinated by the blend of local folk styles and western pop while backpacking in Cambodia, the band features an all-American instrumental lineup playing keyboards and saxophone and is fronted by the petite and charismatic Cambodian singer Chhom Nimol. At their best - on songs such as the wailing and quirky Seeing Hands and Mr Orange, or the pounding finale One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula - they play an intriguing mixture of psychedelic rock and garage surf styles, mixed in with Nimol's cool, clear vocals in Khmer.
There’s nothing worse than so-called “world music” played by over-educated, privileged white kids keen to make a post-ironic statement in an increasingly globalized world. Yes, I’m talking about Vampire Weekend, and no, I don’t particularly want to. Ditto for Matisyahu, whose name the mainstream music press has not invoked for a blessed long time.
Flower-power era Cambodian pop might seem a bit esoteric, but as translated by L.A. hipsters Dengue Fever on third album Venus on Earth, the forgotten genre overflows with distorted surf guitars and vintage Farfisa organ sounding at once vaguely distant and eerily familiar. The seductive warble of Cambodian-born singer Chhom Nimol converts this psychedelic canvas into high art as she sways effortlessly between English and her native Khmer, a feat performed midballad on "Tooth and Nail." Nimol trades vocals with guitarist Zac Holtzman on "Tiger Phone Card," a wistful transoceanic love tale, while the languid saxophone punctuating "Woman in the Shoes" feels like a slow float down the Mekong River.