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"Escape from Dragon House," the latest release from the Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever, explodes with a burst of psychedelia. From start to finish, the album delivers both 1960s American rock and Cambodian pop at a breakneck pace.
Dengue Fever was formed in 2001 by brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman. Despite coming from the hipster-laden Silverlake district of Los Angeles, Ethan was inspired by a recent trip to Cambodia and decided to pursue music in the styling of Cambodian pop. In their efforts to find a Khmer singer, the Holtzman brothers stumbled upon singer Chhom Nimol from the Little Phnom Penh area of Long Beach. Luck would have it that Chhom Nimol had already a short-lived musical career in Cambodia, and hailed from musical royalty. The other members, bassist Senon Williams, drummer Paul Smith, and saxophonist David Ralicke, later joined the core of Dengue Fever.
Their self-titled debut album was released in 2003 to much critical acclaim. That album was mainly a series of 1960ís Cambodian pop music covers, with a few original songs rounding out the album. Since then, the band has matured musically, to create more original music with their latest release. The songs now contain a mix of English and Khmer, instead of solely singing in Khmer.
Musically, the album is a hybrid between Southeast Asian melodies and vocals, and keyboard/organ psychedelia; the Farfisa electric organ that is characteristic of 1960ís psychedelic bands is a key component of the bandís music. Also prominent in the music are the distinct bass lines that continue to both accentuate Nimolís higher vocals, and provide a foundation for the songs. The addition of the saxophone further rounds out the songs through providing a similar sound to traditional Cambodian instruments. In many ways, their sound is very retro, especially given the Eastern and Indian influence of the 1960ís, though through this album of originals, they have kept their sound up-to-date.
In efforts to promote the album, the band has planned a limited tour, with hopes to expand. The dates include a Thursday night residency through March 2nd at Tangier, a popular club in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, and have the band traveling along the U.S. Pacific Northwest from Seattle back down to Los Angeles, stopping off in Portland and San Francisco along the way.
With the new album released, the band has been steadily generating popular interest and critical accolades alike throughout the U.S.. The album was ranked as #1 for Amazon.comís editorís top 100 picks of 2005. The band has also been featured and reviewed on several NPR shows, and other mainstream media.
With so many bands today coming out with new CD's, it is difficult to find genuine, new, unique and original music. Dengue Feverís sophomore effort establishes them as one of these new bands that have a style and sound all their own. The psychedelic style is sure to make a fan out of anyone that appreciated the original movement of the 1960s. And while Nimolís vocals may not win everyone over, no one can deny them of their uniqueness.
For more information about Dengue Fever, check out www.denguefevermusic.com/ .
Date Posted: 2/23/2006