Photo courtesy of Neurot Recordings
Nearly four years have passed since the Western N.C. quartet USX, or US Christmas, released a proper album, 2011’s The Valley Path.
A swirling, smoldering 40-minute exploration of heavy psych-rock, haunted Appalachian blues and spartan drone, The Valley Path
is a heady journey of a record and USX’s best and most cohesive statement to date.
That cohesion remains the record's greatest surprise. After shuffling lineups, singer/guitarist Nate Hall finally seems to have arrived at an ensemble that suits his vision. With bassist Josh “Asa” Hold, drummer Billy Graves and violinist Meg Mulhearn now committed to the project, USX finally feels more like a proper band. It seems surprising, then, that the unit still hasn't released new material—but maybe not.
“It has been a pretty steady and stress free period for all of us, in terms of band life,” Hall says. “Ironically, some of the most stressful and chaotic periods made for some good records. Still, it is nice to be able to think clearly and calmly.”
Still, Hall's muse seems as restless as ever. To wit, Hall sidestepped USX to release a spare Americana solo effort
and contribute to two Townes Van Zandt tribute albums
with Baroness’ Dyer Baizley and Yob’s Mike Scheidt.
“I really needed a way to channel my ideas without any friction, and the solo thing is definitely the ticket for that,” Hall says. “It did direct my energy away from USX for a while, but it was good for my body, mind and soul.”
His bandmates have their own diversions. When USX is on hold, Mulhearn helms Divine Circles
; Holt and Graves share time in A Storm of Light
and Generation of Vipers.
“Everybody needs to be able to do their thing on their own terms,” Hall says.
But at last, Hall says a new USX album is in the works. The songs are still taking shape on stage, evolving as the band tours. Hopefully, he says, they’ll make it onto tape later this year. The songs, at least, should have plenty more chances to solidify.
“We are all playing music for a living now,” Hall says. “So tours are much more likely.”
USX plays The Cave tonight at 9 p.m., with Sinister Haze, Generation of Vipers and Bitter Resolve. Tickets are $7.