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USX: The Valley Path

Above all else, I have to praise a band with the courage to release a new album consisting of one 40 minute track. USX (formerly known as US Christmas - Nate Hall Guitars, words, vocals; Matt Johnson Synthesizers, guitars, sounds; Chris Thomas Guitars, bass; BJ Graves Drums; Justin Whitlow Drums, experimental sounds; Josh Holt Bass, drones; Meghan Mulhearn - Violin) is a stoner/psychedelic/space rock band born in the Appalachian region of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. At first listen, the droning, wandering, and very, very slowly building track didn't catch my ear or hold my attention. But, researching the band sent me off on a tangent looking up the history of Appalachia. Once you read about the long history of poverty and struggle in the region, it puts the music in context. Listening again, it became a perfect soundtrack to a life of coal mining and hazy mountain sunsets.

The song itself consists of only a handful of different riffs (this is not a Dream Theater song), each mutated and built upon as the song moves along. Every so often the music takes a break with a transition of ambient and electronic noise, before picking back up into the sludge. The songs ends by drifting off the the night sounds of crickets and frogs. It's not really a 40-minute song you can skip around in. It needs to be listened to all the way through, which is a challenge. I have to be in just the right mood to want to zone out for 40 minutes. Then again, I'm not a stoner.

Musically, it falls into a sort of blues rock, riff based composition, and while no instruments jump out in a virtuosic display, the parts all work together. The tempo is very slow, and it never changes (another challenge to the listener). There were a few spots I found the vocals grating. Nate Hall's delivery is at times so loose that he seems to slip from 'laid back' to 'out of tune'. This only happens a few times though. If you're looking for a thick, drifting, ambitious chunk of space rock, be sure the check this one out.

Track Listing
1) The Valley Path (39:56)

Added: November 1st 2011
Reviewer: Sean Gill
Related Link: Band MySpace Page
Hits: 1801
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

USX: The Valley Path
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-11-01 08:51:12
My Score:

The Valley Path, the latest from psych/drone outfit USX, consists of one long 39 minute piece of music, that rambles and meanders along with plodding rhythms, sludge laden riffs, bluesy guitar solos, spacey keyboards, and haunting vocals. Don't expect some sort of epic & exciting concept piece here, as the USX folks instead have opted to entice the listener with a mood altering listening experience. For the most part, it all works, though those wanting and yearning for variety and changes in tone & tempo will certainly lost interest at around the halfway point. If you are willing to listen in and let your mind wander, there's a lot to take in and appreciate here. The guitar solos are especially fun, most in the blues vein, and often drenched in reverb or wah, and if you close your eyes you can almost feel like you back in the great plains of the old west, with the wind howling and the dust flying.

Things drag on a bit around the 25 minute mark, but thankfully the band kicks into some textured post rock and almost black metal fire for a brief moment, before a nearly symphonic outro bridges things to a calming and tranquil ending. Overall, The Valley Path is an intriguing piece, certainly not for everyone, but for those who don't mind some mood altering sounds, this just might fit the bill.

USX: The Valley Path
Posted by John OBoyle, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-06-11 09:21:08
My Score:

The masters of dark psychedelia USX (U.S Christmas) have released their second album, an album that bravely contains just one track, The Valley Path, which comes in at just under forty minutes, being the follow up release of their 2010 Run Thick in the Night. An album built on esoteric beauty, which may have only been intended to be understood by a minority and probably heard by a niche audience, but don't let that put you off as this is an album that flourishes the more you listen.

This is a musical journey that the Appalachian rockers want to take you on, an epic journey that will carve its wall of sonic dirge through your mind, repeating trance like rhythms that are powerful and memorable.

The approach maybe heartfelt, Nate Hall's muddy approached vocals are somewhat saved by the musical punctuations that are atmospheric, patterns of repetition, hypnotic and powerful riffs, echoing passages, repeating themes and dramatic solos all being anchored by some rather nice drumming. The approach is heartfelt and has managed to not become pretentious and boring in its presentation, a pit fall that could have quite easily have belied the album, or any album with a single track for that matter, although from time to time it does become a bit self-indulgent. The whole piece is melancholic and broody, displaying a musical moroseness, which is rather fascinating to listen too.

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