Dengue Fever premiere 'Uku,' to play the Getty's 'Saturday's Off the 405' series
They formed a decade ago when Cambodian-born dinner house-chanteuse Chhom Nimol auditioned for brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman, who had become enamored of the Khmer pop that had flourished in the years before Cambodian dictator Pol Pot commencing his bloody reign.
The last decade has seen Dengue garner worldwide acclaim and performing in distant lands. Dustin Roasa's article from last year takes a particularly in-depth look at a recent trip to Cambodia for festivities marking the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Cambodian diplomatic relations. In addition to illustrating the fidelity of the group's vision, it provides a backdrop for a short exploration of the Southeast Asian nation's turbulent history.
The sextet has flourished because of its ability to go far beyond well-meaning replication. Since their 2003 self-titled debut, they've incorporated slanted Ethiopian grooves, rough surf rock, New Wave and American indie. The same eclecticism and fusion of far-flung influences that Cambodia incubated by the revolution that ultimately led to a crushing of the nation's fine arts. For their efforts, they garnered international raves and prominent cinematic placements, including in Jim Jarmusch's melancholic "Broken Flowers," and the goofball romp, "The Hangover 2."
Their fourth LP, April's "Cannibal Courtship," finds them writing English-language songs and continuing to balance hypnotic grooves with Nimol's Niobe-like wails.
Writing in The Times, Randall Roberts hailed its "refined sound ... no longer a vehicle for a curious cultural collision, but for a fluent conversation that sounds positively Esperantan ... [with] guitar lines, keyboard clusters and arrangements that consistently meander down mysterious pathways."
Download (Pop & Hiss premiere): Dengue Fever-"Uku" [MP3]
In advance of Dengue Fever's June 18 performance -- as part of the Getty's "Saturday's Off the 405" Series -- Pop & Hiss is premiering "Uku," a cut that sounds like the Black Keys filtered through Dick Dale kidnapped in Cambodia, topped off by Nimol's extraterrestrial chants.
-- Jeff Weiss
Photo: Dengue Fever. Credit: Lauren Dukoff