Personnel: Zac Holtzman (vocals, guitar); Chhom Nimol (vocals); David Ralicke (horns); Ethan Holtzman (keyboards); Paul Dreux Smith (drums, percussion); Gordon "Nappy G" Clay (percussion); Clare McKeown (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Paul Dreux Smith.
Recording information: Shoebox Studio, Los Angeles (2014).
While Dengue Fever could almost have qualified as a novelty act when they first started out (Los Angeles hipsters playing decades-old Cambodian pop tunes? Talk about high concept!), they've matured into a richly satisfying band, blending several different cultures and styles into an indie rock melting pot, and 2015's The Deepest Lake, their sixth studio album, is another striking and pleasurable example of East meeting West. Though the exotica accents and semi-psychedelic drift of their earlier work are still clearly visible on The Deepest Lake (most notably on the lovely "Golden Flute"), African percussive accents and hip-hop elements play a larger role in this music, while "Rom Say Sok" is steeped in American R&B, "Cardboard Castles" lays distorted guitars and graceful guitars over quietly churning percussion, and "Still Waters Run Deep" sounds like the main theme of a spy movie set in Phnom Penh with its punchy horns and dramatic twists and turns. The members of Dengue Fever wrote, produced, and recorded all ten tunes on The Deepest Lake, bringing a witty and intelligent melodic sense to the songs and a clean, atmospheric tone to the audio, and while the songs are primarily sung in a Cambodian dialect by lead vocalist Chhom Nimol, the occasional bursts of English add considerably to the multi-cultural flavor of the music, allowing both sides to play like strangers in a strange land. And Dengue Fever simply play brilliantly as a band, with Zac Holtzman's guitars and Ethan Holtzman's keyboards lending the songs a broad spectrum of tonal colors and attitudes, David Ralicke's horns commenting on the surroundings with wisdom and smarts, and bassist Senon Williams and drummer Paul Dreux Smith nudging the music forward with just the right touch. Dengue Fever have grown far beyond a mere world music pastiche; on The Deepest Lake, they deliver music that's thoughtful, imaginative, and sensuous in all the best ways, and this album is a joy for listeners with a taste for sonic adventure. ~ Mark Deming