75 Dollar Bill – Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock

75 Dollar Bill – Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock

Despite being active since 2012, it took until the middle of last year for the Brooklyn-based 75 Dollar Bill to garner greater critical attention with this second ‘proper’ album; released originally in the US through Thin Wrist Recordings and now reissued for UK/European audiences via new Glitterbeat subsidy imprint Tak:Til.  Combining the twin talents of art-rock veteran Rick Brown (best known for his work with The Run On, Fish & Roses and Sue Garner) and the less-familiar Che Chen (True Primes, Heresy Of The Free Spirit), 75 Dollar Bill are evidently a slow-burning proposition but with Wood/Metal/Plastic Pattern/Rhythm/Rock they truly ignite.

With Brown continuing to deploy his spartan makeshift percussion set-up (including wooden crates, shakers, maracas et al.) and Chen re-assuming 6 and 12-string guitar duties (as well as now adding bass), the duo are joined this time by a cast of guests supplying saxophone, trumpet, viola, floor tom drum and contrabass to extend 75 Dollar Bill’s raw globalist sonic reach.  The sprawling yet fastidiously rendered net results, across four extended wordless tracks, certainly explain what all the fuss has been about.

Proceedings begin somewhat ascetically with the stripped-down and scene-settling “Earth Saw”, that finds Chen and Brown seemingly unaccompanied as the former uncoils a circular Saharan desert-rock riff alongside the latter’s brittle and battered percussion.  After such a relatively unremarkable opening, things shift-up several gears for the blistering “Beni Said”.  With Brown providing a rattle-snake beat (with a box of bottle caps no less) and Chen laying-down expansive modal guitar figures around which sax and viola lines swirl, “Beni Said” spreads-out as a skronking groove-laden reverie that resituates passages of Fairport Convention’s Full House in a sweat-soaked Moroccan bazaar.

Over on the flipside, the coruscating “Cummins Falls” goes for an even lower-slung attack; with primeval John Bonham drumming brutality and gnarling Jimmy Page-like blues-raga guitar lines imagining a long lost and decidedly unvarnished Led Zeppelin demo, with nakedly animalistic aplomb.  Bringing the album to a close is the relentlessly prowling “I’m Not Trying to Wake Up”, which marries another cyclical gnawed guitar motif and primitive percussion to subterranean sax skulking and ambient trumpet wafting in a way that strangely yet satisfyingly fuses strong elements of Gallon Drunk’s gritty urban From The Heart Of Town with Tinariwen’s most insistent visceral sun-baked processionals.

Although Wood/Metal/Plastic Pattern/Rhythm/Rock is not for the fainthearted there’s a redemptive earthy quality at play throughout that’s instinctively passionate rather than aloofly intellectualised. A masterful micro-epic exploration from the gut in short.