Fresh Stream, Music



An unhealthy tic shared by a lot of music critics is the way they describe artists by trotting out a laundry list of other, similar-sounding artists. It serves its purpose in certain contexts: sometimes you just have to say things like “Imagine if PHIL SPECTOR and BRAINBOMBS were best friends and lived on the moon with WHITNEY HOUSTON– that’s what the Rock ’n’ Roll Dudes’ new cassette sounds like!” But often, that kind of description sells the music short; it reduces it to a mere amalgamation of sounds that came before.

I could resort to this method in telling you about 75 Dollar Bill’s new album. I could say it sounds like Jimi Hendrix and John Fahey and Om wandering through the Sahara with the dudes from Tinariwen. I could say it sounds like liturgical music composed by Terry Riley for a heretofore unknown religion that worships Bo Diddley as its one and only supreme god. I could say that at times it has the mellow, flowing-water groove of Steve Gunn or Brightblack Morning Light. I could also rattle off a bunch of cool facts, like how guitarist Che Chen modded his fretboard so he could play in a traditional North African tonal system. Or that drummer Rick Davis mostly employs a plywood crate and maracas.

All these descriptions, while valid in their own right, just don’t get across what the music sounds like. 75 Dollar Bill’s WOOD/METAL/PLASTIC/PATTERN/RHYTHM/ROCK (thin wrist recordings) isn’t just a bunch of things you already know put into a blender and repackaged; it really is something new. It’s a raw-sounding, hypnotic exploration of the possibilities of timbre, rhythm, and repetition. It drives straight forward as it meanders, it ends up light years away from where it started while never setting a foot outside the door. It’s layer upon layer of melodic and rhythmic blocks that build and build and resolve and build again– a bit like Riley’s In C– but with its component parts always shiningly visible and on display, never muddled in the morass of its own complexity.

Ugh, I tried. What I really want to say is: it’s fucking awesome, and you should listen to it.

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