Sleepwalking Through The Mekong

Dengue Fever, 2009

Sleepwalking Through the Mekong follows Dengue Fever on their recent journey to Cambodia to perform 60s and 70s Cambodian rock 'n' roll in the country where it was created and very nearly destroyed.

This beautifully presented double disc digipak edition includes the full-length documentary film and CD soundtrack with previously unreleased live performance tracks by Dengue Fever, new tracks, collaborations with Cambodian master musicians Kong Nai & Tep Mary and rare Cambodian tracks from the golden era of 70s pop.

The odyssey is a homecoming for singer Chhom Nimol and a transformation for the rest of the band. More than a rockumentary, the film serves up a portrait of modern Cambodia as the band tours through Phnom Penh and beyond, crossing a great cultural chasm with the same spirit of Cambodia's original rock pioneers. Daily Variety calls the film, "An engagingly different rock 'n' roll documentary."

Cambodia is often synonymous with the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that left millions dead and scattered refugees around the globe. This tragedy overshadows the story of Cambodia's music scene in the 60s and 70s. Cambodian musicians reinvented Western rock 'n' roll with a distinctly Khmer flavor to create a sound (often referred to as Khmer rock) that is at once familiar and completely original. Sleepwalking Through the Mekong celebrates this vibrant but long-overlooked music and reveals the power of music to weave a common thread between extremely different cultures.

Reviews

  • Captivating A moving mix of music, travelogue and cultural history lesson, this is as captivating as the Los Angeles group it stars. MOJO (UK)
  • A charming one-hour documentary I have to confess to having remained immune to Dengue Fever's take on pre-Pol Pot Cambodian rock up to now. But this superb documentary film of the L.A band's 2005 tour of Cambodia - accompanying soundtrack that weaves in many of the ensemble's influences - puts it into a whole new and striking context... ...A charming one-hour documentary...the soundtrack is split fifty-fifty between Dengue Fever's music and a combination of some of their biggest influences - such as 60s rocker Meas Samoun, the garage band sound of the King of Khmer Rock Sinn Sa Mouth and Ros Serey Sothea - and current master musicians, such as Tep Mary and Kong Nay. Dense and groovy, the LA band's sound holds up remarkably well against the grainy combination of psychedelia, warped Bollywoodisms and fuzztone guitar. FLY (USA)
  • Displays All The Elements That Are Currently Delivering Dengue Fever So Many Plaudits ....By turns an engaging travelogue, a sobering history lesson on the Khmer Rouge's desecration of Cambodia's culture and an upbeat integration of Western and Asian music, 'Sleepwalking Through The Mekong', though filmed in 2005, displays all the elements that are currently delivering Dengue Fever so many plaudits....There's the ease with which they've successfully brought Cambodian rock'n'roll to a wider audience and the corresponding delight in their acceptance in its homeland. R2 (Rock'n'Reel) (UK)
  • Sleepwalking Through the Mekong This is the soundtrack to a film (also included) following the Los Angeles band's first tour of Cambodia, featuring their own tracks and covers. Ros Sereysothea's New Year's Eve is a burst of punk attitude, while Sinn Sisamouth's Mou Pei Na has an irresistibly catchy melody. Of the new recordings, Master Tep Mary is a dubby exploration of gongs; Master Kong Nai finds the band hitting a Tinariwen groove. The Times (UK)
  • Sleepwalking Through The Mekong Based in Los Angeles, with an expatriate Cambodian singer, Chhom Nimol, Dengue Fever recreate the music of Phnom Penh's psychedelic sixties: blessed-out surf guitar and high-pitched singing from Chhom. Sleepwalking Through The Mekong sees the band return to Cambodia to perform with some of the countries rockers. Saxophonist throws in a Mulutu Astatke number from Ethiopia's Golden Age. The Financial Times (UK)
  • Reviving and reinventing the fevered Cambodian pop of the 60s and 70s. Cambodian pop and traditional music aren't exactly close cousins, so it's to Dengue Fever's credit that they're able to play along with the two featured traditional musicians, Tep Mary and Kong Nay - the second of whom may be familiar from his recent UK tour. On Tip My Canoe, Zac Hotzman even manages what sounds like a passable Khmer vocal, accompanied by Chhom Nimol. There are several instrumental interludes of varying merit by Dengue Fever, and they even do a cover of a piece by Ethio-jazz maverick Mulatu Astatque. This may seem surprising at first, but it's music from the same period in history and like Khmer rock, was inspired by foreign sounds and suppressed by a murderous regime. Also, it's a cool keyboard workout opportunity for Ethan. The other key original track is One Thousand Tears Of A Tarantula, an extended wig-out that provides a welcome contrast with the more economic pop of the past. It all makes more sense once you watch the DVD. Even if it is about something that happened four years ago. Here's a bunch of Americans and a Cambodian expat visiting Cambodia with a fresh spin on music originally made by Cambodians, which itself was based on American surf/psychedelia/garageĀ…bringing it all back home, again, as it were. Neither the irony nor the sentiment seem lost on the locals. BBC Music (UK)
  • Sleepwalking Through the Mekong Since this group recently played live in London, this album is the necessary adjunct. And what it evokes is the music which was all the rage in Phnom Penh in the palmy days of the 1960s and 1970s, before Pol Pot scorched the earth. The group is based in California, but its lead singer Chhom Nimol - who regularly sang for the Cambodian royal family - has that slightly strangulated vocal charm which you find all over the Indo-Chinese peninsula. The accompanying DVD brings back vivid memories. The Independent (UK)
  • True Originals Dengue Fever are true originals. Fronted by Cambodian singer Chhom Nimol, these Los Angeles musicians aim to revive the western-influenced psychedelic rock and garage-surf styles that flourished in Phnom Penh in the 1960s and early 70s, before the Khmer Rouge moved in, banning all songs from previous eras. Dedicated to all those musicians who perished under the Pol Pot regime, this is an intriguing CD and DVD set that records the American band's visit to Cambodia. The hour-long documentary by John Pirozzi is an entertaining mixture of travelogue and history lesson that is far superior to most such music films, with stories of the country's brutal history and surviving musical culture mixed in with live performances. Many of the same songs reappear on the CD, and range from Dengue Fever's take on 1960s Cambodian hits to a gloriously quirky treatment of Mulatu Astatque's Ethanopium. It's a lighter, more subtle set than last year's Venus on Earth, with Nimol in impressive form throughout. The Guardian (UK)