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Hot on the heels of two fantastic cassette releases comes the absolutely ripping LP debut for Other Music Recording Co. by 75 Dollar Bill, the willfully primitive sounding duo of electric guitarist Che Chen and percussionist Rick Brown, both of whom have previously cut a wide swath through the underground. Brown, since arriving on the New York scene in the early '80s, has recorded and toured with numerous bands including V-Effect, Run On, Timber, Fish & Roses, and Chris Stamey, and has collaborated live or in the studio with Tortoise, Matmos, Yo La Tengo, Charles Hayward, Fred Frith, Malcolm Mooney, Elliott Sharp, Jean Smith, and Mark Cunningham, amongst many others. Chen, in addition to being an Other Music alumni, has recorded and toured playing violin, guitars and other instruments with a diverse set of artists including True Primes, Jozef van Wissem, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Che-Shizu, and Robbie Lee.
With a motto that reads "Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock," the two draw from a wellspring of influences whose source probably begins with Mauritanian electric guitar music -- Chen briefly studied guitar in that North African country with one of its greatest performers and players, the legendary Jheich ould Chighaly. However, the duo takes the repetitive and trance-like desert blues of Moorish guitar music, and then blast and refract it through a distinctly American lens, combining the minimalism of Henry Flynt with the endless, loping riffs you hear in John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, or Junior Kimbrough. And while the duo have been known to collaborate live with a whole variety of other interesting instrumentalists, Wooden Bag is a beautifully raw and direct album of duo recordings. Pretty much anything you read about 75 Dollar Bill is going to end up using descriptors like "shreds" or "boogies," and while listening to the ecstatic sound that these guys make you remember how thrilling and visceral those concepts can be. Using the cheapest of instruments (cardboard or homemade wooden boxes, a janky looking Japanese guitar), they've endlessly woodshedded over the last couple years, playing tons of residencies and even hauling their gear out onto the crowded streets of Chinatown to perform before befuddled locals. At this point you can practically hear two heads in perfect communion, and I can't tell you how exciting it is to immerse yourself in the wonderful combination of these jagged and raw riffs and percussive patterns, while following along in your own mind with their inspiration of creation. (January 15, 2015)