When Dengue Fever first surfaced circa 2003, its Westernized take on Cambodian pop music from the Vietnam War era seemed like a wonderful novelty — one apt to fascinate briefly and then fade away. Instead, the group has managed to evolve from the oddest of cover bands to a supplier of original material so captivating that potential accusations of gimmickry are rendered moot. On Venus on Earth, the outfit's new disc for the M80 imprint, lead singer Chhom Nimol still brings the exotica, crooning in her native language nearly as often as she delivers words in English — and she proves equally effective in both tongues. But the rest of the combo, led by vocalist/guitarist Zac Holtzman and his Farfisa-playing brother Ethan, anchor her ceiling-piercing vocals with impressive compositions such as "Sober Driver," whose loungey sophistication is lovely to behold. The latest from Dengue Fever, joined on this bill by Mothership and Alan Alda, is conceptually clever and a whole lot more.
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