2015 is Shaping Up to be a Great Year for Music!
“The Deepest Lake,” the new full length LP (and fifth overall) from Los Angeles sextet Dengue Fever finds the band at the top of their game. From start to finish, the album is compelling, mesmerizing and catchy as hell.
It is easily one of the best records of the year so far. Of course, there are many moons left in 2015, but I promise you few of those will end up being as enjoyable, regardless of what any flavor-of-the-month internet critic or poll tries to tell you.
A Chance Encounter at a Nightclub
For those unfamiliar with the band, a brief history might be in order. Ethan Holtzman returned from a trip through Southeast Asia in the early 2000s having developed a flair for Cambodian music. When he returned he contacted his brother Zac, (formerly of now defunct Amarillo Records legends Dieselhed) who had developed a similar affinity for Cambodian rock via a job at a record store. After they reconnected, they decided to put together a band that would pursue a similar sound, and in a very traditional way.
At a nightclub in the Little Phnom Penh area of Long Beach, the brothers discovered their chanteuse to be. Chhom Nimol, an emigre from Cambodia (already famous in her own right) was performing at the club. Her performance convinced them that she was exactly what they were looking for, and Dengue Fever was born.
Throughout their five albums, and a handful of E.P.s, Dengue Fever has continued to expand their sound. Their first album (“Dengue Fever,” 2003) was mostly older Khmer rock tunes from the 60s, re-imagined by the band. But as they moved forward, they naturally began to craft more of their own songs. Although they would retain their heavy Cambodian influence, they began to develop a style of songwriting that was completely unique to themselves.
How Deep is The Deepest Lake?
The title of the new album is “The Deepest Lake,” and while I’m certain that title isn’t intended to be self-referential, the fact is that this LP contains the deepest and richest collection of material the band has put forth yet. The haunting strains of album opener “Tokay” immediately set the tone for the kind of musical adventure the listener is getting themselves into. Sung in her native tongue, Chhom Nimol’s vocals create a lilting texture guaranteed to hypnotize.
Track 2, “No Sudden Moves,” continues to expand the musical horizons of the album, introducing layers of African percussion, and finds Nimol almost rapping. The tune crescendos in a dizzying mix of percussion, saxophone, and gorgeous vocals.
The third track, and first single off the album “Rom Say Sok” is a super catchy, up tempo number with a fantastic guy/girl dynamic on vocals. Sung mostly in English, Nimol is backed up on vocals by guitarist Zac; the two of them producing a harmony and a sound together that is as addicting as anything that John Doe and Exene Cervenka ever recorded together.
The entire album takes you on a musical journey that is unlike any other. The peaks and valleys of tempo and style complementing one another in such a way that one really doesn’t want to listen to just one or two songs. The entire album is an experience to be enjoyed. From the slow swooning texture of “Ghost Voice” to the catchy vocal acrobatics on display in “Still Waters Run Deep,” there is so much to be appreciated on this album, that you will continue to sing its praises long after the record ceases to be new anymore.
All Your False Idols are Just Pretenders
In a time where a great percentage of the music out there is generated by brain trusts trying to use the prettiest faces they can find to wring as much money out of the public as possible, having an album of this quality; something this real and genuine, feels like one has come home to the planet on which they were really born. Did I mention that these songs are catchy as hell, and you will be singing them to yourself long after the record ends? Because they are, and you will.
- Dengue Fever. Photo courtesy Chean Long: Photo courtesy of Chean Long | Used With Permission