With Cannibal Courtship (Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group), their fourth album, the Los Angeles based sextet, singer Chhom Nimol, guitarist-singer Zac Holtzman, keyboardist Ethan Holtzman, brass and woodwinds player David Ralicke, drummer Paul Dreux Smith and bassist Senon Gaius Williams, has reached a powerful new plateau, deftly balancing the wide-ranging influences that inform their sound and songs.
“Before it was partly Cambodian and partly indie rock,” explains Williams of the band’s evolution. “Now it’s 100 percent both.”
From snaking, driving rock (“Cement Slippers,” “Family Business,” “2012,” and the title track) to Cambodian dub psych-groove (“Uku”) and everywhere in between (the bilingual, gear- shifting tour de force “Only a Friend,” the mesmerizing “Mr. Bubbles”), Cannibal Courtship is, like the tropical malady that gave the band its name, wildly catching.
Longtime fans will get their required dose of Nimol’s haunting vocals and the band’s other- worldly, mood-swinging musical experimentation on the new disc, their first studio album since 2008’s Venus on Earth, but the group, which produced the set together, has upped the creative ante.