Can the world afford to wait every two years until Dengue Fever release another album? The more I delve into their music, the more insatiable my ears become, eagerly awaiting the next psychedelic spy thriller soundtrack set to frontwoman Chhom Nimol’s uber confident vocals. Like a slow drip of the sweetest pressed coffee, their spurts of sound started in 2003 with a self-titled EP. From there, the six piece ran into some type of caffeinated overdrive until 2009’s In the Ley Lines. It was label issues that stalled 2011’s Cannibal Courtship and ultimately spawned Dengue Fever’s own Tuk Tuk Records, of which The Deepest Lake is their first official release. They’ve been teasing the full-length album since their brief but brilliant Girl From the North EP, which first unleashed “Taxi Dancer” and “Deepest Lake on the Planet” two years ago. Both tracks offer stories are just inspiring as their music.
Dengue Fever exposes every bizarre, beautiful aspect of their culture-meshing music to a kaleidoscopic degree. They’re the reason I know taxi dancers aren’t grooving in a yellow cab with Tony Danza but rather giving his dispatcher a lap dance. TV references aside, “Taxi Dancer” is a multi-leveled parable. Its lyrics describe a woman absorbing the weathered years of her john set to the type of sultry psychedelia that drops you into one rotating fleck of the musical kaleidoscope. Turn towards the bridge and you’re dropped into yet anther segment, bolstered by the haunting vibrato of a Farfisa organ. Meanwhile, “The Deepest Lake on the Planet” plumbs the depths of the physical and the abstract. The lyrics, all in Khmer, sound at times like a more thoughtful version of the Turtles’ “Happy Together” and at totally separate turns, like a slowed down Mars Volta. Having their own label affords Dengue Fever the ultimate creative control and The Deepest Lake is the band at their most experimental.
Standout track “No Sudden Moves” is rapid-fire fun, its staccato bass intro blasting into burst of horns that anchor a nimble Nimol rapping through a breakdown in punchy, sassy delight. Dengue Fever forces the listener to dig deeper as they continue to traverse a musical landscape once threatened by extinction in an unruly Cambodia circa 1970 while also adding to their palette. Nearly all ten songs on The Deepest Lake could easily fit in with Sinn & Ros and other classic Cambodian acts that first piqued the interest of Farfisa player Ethan Holtzman and his brother, guitarist Zac Holtzman, who approached Nimol fourteen years ago about collaborating together. Their rise and – finally – recognition is what makes Dengue Fever frontrunners as the most promising band of 2015. The Deepest Lake is fire; the advent of Tuk Tuk Records stokes the creative flame ever-higher.