These crazy hillbillies have been at the Fly Agaric again. USX first came to my attention via the gorgeous Hawkwind tribute put out by Neurot last year. I was struck by their incredible covers of Hawkwind classics that were executed with such care and love that I suspected that they were real bone-fide backwoods hippies and lysergic voyagers into inner space. Subsequent listens to their fine previous albums confirmed this. UXS play a seductive and contemporary American psychedelia that can trace its lineage back to Dylan, Neil Young and The Grateful Dead as much as it can to Neurosis, Melvins, Nirvana and Godspeed You Black Emperor! This latest offering,’ The Valley Path’, is one huge 39 minute song which constitutes the entirety of the album.
The good news is that this is a very beautiful piece of music. I suppose the bad news (not for me though) is not everybody likes Nate’s vocals. A very acquired taste, particularly if you are a die-hard ‘extreme music’ aficionado. As my lovely wife pointed out upon hearing his slurred Dylanisms, ‘he sounds like the guy out of Primal Scream’. That may be true, but let us bear in mind that Nate Hall has probably never heard Primal Scream, let alone used their petulant and posturing twat of a singer as an influence. The vocalist of USX is deeply into his Neil Young and Bob Dylan, both vocally and musically, hence the huge and distorted chords and the sad meandering poetry.
From the outset, ‘The Valley Path’ bursts open with luscious picked chords, rolling percussion and a generally stoned feel of such immense Appalachian psychedelia that I feel inclined to re-read some of my favourite Cormack McCarthy novels that centre on that very mysterious and mountainous area of the USA, such as ‘Suttree’ and ‘Outer Dark’. The album constantly undulates, contracts and extends, sometimes quieting to a near stop, often rising to a crescendo then dying again. Nate’s superb consciousness-altering lead guitar slides and creeps with such an eerie dominance that USX could almost be The Nate Hall Band.
The last five minutes or so of ‘The Valley Path’ are truly spine-tingling, as the majestic chords repeat in a grand uplifting sequence that recalls the breathtaking sonic power of Neil Young’s ‘Weld’. USX are a band who carve out a dark psychedelic soup that bubbles over with the danger of the untamed wild and the melancholy of human existence, embodying the same anarcho-neo-pagan aesthetic that is evident with Neurosis and other artistes on the Neurot label. This latest recording further confirms their uniqueness and eccentricity – they are lone pioneers of a sound quite unlike any other on the underground scene of America.
Scribed by: Adam Stone