The LA pop group Dengue Fever favors songs full of clean lines, guitars and organs and horns all kept separate — all the better to ensnare you with. It feels like fussiness at first pass, but each spin through Venus on Earth proves this separation of powers to be inspired, a way to insure maximum impact of the elements.
Which is funny because, in most other regards, Dengue Fever is all about bridging gaps. Vocalist Chhom Nimol was born in Cambodia, the rest of the band is American; the music they produce is a hybrid of West and East: there's tiny flecks of rockabilly, garage and Cambodian pop, all of them steered by Nimol's aching vocals. Her vocal lines are shaped like question marks, curving and snakelike and mysterious. The group aids and abets this sense of foreboding, plucking out spidery tunes equally suited to spy film or hookah bar.
That said, the group is not above a bit of tomfoolery; “Tiger Phone Card” documents a long-distance relationship (New York to Phnom Penh) that starts out sweet and slowly disintegrates. The opening of the song finds Nimol and guitarist Zac Holtzman cooing “I think about you so, so much” to each other and ends with Nimol angrily seething, “you only call me when you're drunk!” Some traditions, it would seem, transcend cultures.