Californian psychedelia fused with Asian pop and clever whimsical lyrics fuse together to give Dengue Fever their signature sound.
Occasionally the lyrics are sung in Khmer by Cambodian vocalist Chhom Nimo. Her Yoko Onoish singing is layered over indie guitar riffs and an organ sound that would not be out of place in a 1960s sci-fi movie.
The strongest tracks on Venus on Earth are the earliers ones on the album, in particular Tiger Phone Card (my own particular favourite) and Sober Driver, both which involve vocal interplay between Nimo and guitarist Zac Holtzman.
Compared to Nimo’s assured delivery Holtzman’s voice by contrast is vulnerable, almost whinging as he berates his Asian muse for mistreating him.
Vocals aside the Cambodian influences are there, but never overstated. Dengue Fever’s sound is said to be based on a briefly flourishing Cambodian pop scene from the early 1970s, whose musicians were mostly murdered by the Khmer Rouge.
Knowing this is not essential to an appreciation of Venus on Earth but it does serve as a dark subtext to its cheery infectiousness.
Dengue Fever have a new album out, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, and an earlier one, Escape from Dragon House, which on the basis of Venue on Earth will definitely have to be sampled.