Sleepwalking Through the Mekong

Cool psych-rockers Dengue Fever reminisce about the history of native Cambodian rock music through the documentary and CD Sleepwalking Through the Mekong.

Recently, Dengue Fever voyaged to lead singer Chhom Nimol’s native Cambodia, a country which has long inspired the Los Angeles band’s vivid psychedelic-slanted template. Sleepwalking Through the Mekong is the name of the DVD documentary of their tour as well as the accompanying soundtrack. While in Cambodia, the band played classic native rock songs from the ’60s and ’70s that were overshadowed by the era’s brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge, reintroducing the culture to music that had nearly been forgotten. Thus, the corresponding 17-song album is more than a mesmerizing sonic journey for the listener—it’s a wide-eyed look at Cambodian classics from artists such as Ros Sereysothea, Sinn Sisamouth, and Meas Samoun. It’s also a stunning review of Dengue Fever standouts, like the surf rock riffage of “One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula,” the sultry “March of the Balloon Animals,” and “Phnom Chisor Serenade.” The documentary captures a very candid Dengue Fever, presenting a tight-knit group of friends earnest in understanding and embracing Cambodian culture. Between guitarist Zac Holtzman’s gregarious charm and Nimol’s maternal posture, the draw of the band’s individuals is as genuine as their talent as a group, reminding us that music, no matter what, remains the universal language.