Dengue Fever invite you to escape the noise, frenzy, and mundane expectations, offering Ting Mong as a one-way ticket to a dreamlike state.
In Khmer folklore, there's a thing called "Ting Mong." A decoy or mannequin if you will, traditionally in the form of a head without a body. In more modern times it's shaped like a person, similar to a scarecrow. But its job isn’t to scare away birds from crops, it’s to keep away evil spirits and diseases. Dengue Fever's interpretation of “Ting Mong” is thirty minutes of soothing music. Inspired by their desert surroundings and their own introspection, it offered comfort in a world of chaos. The album that shares its name feels like one continuous journey, and incidentally, is perfect for meditation. Ting Mong is a marriage of earth and sky, a reflection of the real places that birthed it and the timeless, world-embracing spirit that infuses its sound.
In the calm before the storm of global upheaval, Dengue Fever was already seeking solace. Following the whirlwind tour for their 2015 album, The Deepest Lake, the group's members felt the need to diverge into various pursuits, be it family, visual arts, session work… and even metal detecting. Though they were never officially on hiatus, the gravitational pull of their shared musical journey brought them back together. Ask them about it, and they'll tell you that they're a band because they're family first.
In 2019, they regrouped, renting a modest cabin in California's desert near Joshua Tree, transforming it into a makeshift recording studio. Days were spent jamming, while nights found them sleeping under the vast desert sky. Then the pandemic reared its ugly head, forcing everyone into isolation. It wasn't until 2021 that Dengue Fever could reconvene in person. It was then that they pieced together their desert recordings, added vocals, and transformed spontaneous jams into songs, reimagining their music. They wrote extensively but also let themselves shred. Among the roughly 20 songs they crafted, only those that effortlessly melded with Chhom Nimol's unique vocal style survived. It had to feel natural. Unlike the past, where they meticulously refined songs to fit her style, this time it had to flow organically. Tracks that felt overly complex were swiftly discarded. The band sought a unified, mellow vibe, so they delved into minimal, repetitive sounds, prioritizing nuance over intricate composition. The result is Ting Mong, and it’s unlike anything they've ever created before.
Unlike their previous work, the new album embraces electronic elements, featuring vintage drum machines, analog synths, and subtle sequencing that adds a new pulse to their sound. The band's improvisational spirit, a hallmark of their live performances, found its way into the studio with mesmerizing results. Songs evolved, molded by spontaneous instincts. "Prohok In My Suitcase," for example, transformed when Nimol added vocals, demanding fresh rhythm elements. Bassist Senon Williams explained, "What we should make had nothing to do with this album - it was always a feeling of want, not should."
Ting Mong showcases Dengue Fever's amalgamation of styles and musical traditions at its most cohesive and dynamic. Nimol's Cambodian heritage engages in a constant dialogue with the band's diverse musical influences. Whether they're channeling psychedelia, surf rock, Afro grooves, or vintage soundtracks, their music brims with profound curiosity, shaped by their life experiences. The album also flirts with exotica, notably on tracks like "Late Checkout At The Cedarwood Inn," channeling a Martin Denny vibe. Yet, it's a unique take on exotica, a reflection of real life rather than a mere escape. Williams noted, "One of the reasons why Dengue Fever has not come off as a kitsch band is because of the honesty of what we play. Each of us plays from their own perspective, we don't emanate anything that is outside of our experience."
From their self-titled debut featuring Cambodian covers to their current focus on original material, Dengue Fever has crafted a unique musical language. Much like Cambodian rock in the '60s and '70s, they reimagined Western electric sounds, creating a never-ending cycle of surprises and memorable songs.