DENGUE FEVER The Deepest Lake (MRI)
In the shadow of war, a hugely vibrant rock scene flourished in Phnom Penh and Saigon in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Young bands forged a new genre that effortlessly blended rural Cambodian and Vietnamese folk sounds with the verve of American surf rock, psychedelia, and R & B. For the past 15 years, Los Angeles band Dengue Fever has built a fan base by revisiting the lost sound of this era. On their fifth album, brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman continue the yeoman’s work of revising the reverb-heavy pop sound Ethan first discovered on a backpacking trip to Cambodia in the late 1990s. But at the heart of the band have always been the regal pipes of vocalist Chhom Nimol, a former wedding singer whose ferocious range lays waste to every track she performs on. For the new album, the band uses an even broader palette of global music, smoothly folding cumbia and Ethiopian jazz into their classic Southeast Asian rocker sound on the stunning opener, “Tokay.” “No Sudden Moves” finds Nimol downshifting her powerful voice somewhere between spoken-word poetry and rap with effortless aplomb. “Taxi Dancer” borrows heavily from Motown-era soul to create a Khmer-language dance-floor cut. Without a misstep in sight, this sophisticated work of pastiche and revision finds a way to feel every bit as authentic as the original music it references.