Release Date: Jun 28, 2019
Record label: Thin Wrist
In fact, any attempt to neatly summarise and categorise what the New York duo (Che Chen on growly guitar, Rick Brown on homespun percussion) are up to on their third album is bound to sell the often mesmerising contents of I Was Real cruelly short. Take the title track as an example. Edited to a more home listening-friendly 17-minute slab from live takes that frequently trouble the half an hour mark, the cut is at its core a totem to relentless repetition.
T his New York underground outfit's breakout album, Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock (2016), attempted to quantify 75 Dollar Bill's engrossing sound, developed over a series of cassette releases and one previous studio effort. They preside over a contemporary swirl of mantric psychedelia made with down-to-earth material tactility. Percussionist Rick Brown most often plays a wooden box; guitarist Che Chen, inspired by Mauritanian wedding music, conjures up intense, evolving drones with various stringed things, nodding to west Africa here, or the near east there.
75 Dollar Bill are like something from a musicologists' parlour game: without looking at the label, where are these guys from? The lulling, circular riffs are reminiscent of the lo-fi electric guitars played by Tuareg artists like Tinariwen or Mdou Moctar; the rhythms are sometimes like Moroccan gnawa; the harmonium-like drone underneath the 17-minute title track seems to hint at Indian devotional music. And then when you're sure they must be a bar band from Tennessee on the blues-rock knees-up Tetuzi Akiyama, it turns out the song is named after a Japanese guitarist they admire. This fascinating, deeply involving record is more than just catnip for record nerds, though.