Last year, U.S. Christmas, (or, USX for those of you into secular brevity), took part in a Hawkwind tribute album with Minsk and Harvestman (Neurosis’ Steve Von Till) called Hawkwind Triad. An acknowledgement of their inspiration as well as an expression of their own accomplishments in the realm of expansive psychedelia, I kind of consider Hawkwind Triad a competitor’s album: the three respective groups presenting their own interpretations of Hawkwind’s space-borne rock n’ roll as if vying for the prestigious claim to Hawkwind’s throne.

If you’re wondering who championed the material, they all did. Each act played with a degree of humility and admiration, careful to make sure their own identities weren’t being lost in favor of the music’s authors. You don’t improve on a group like Hawkwind. You basically hope you’ve earned the right to succeed or expand their legacy, content to dwell in their inescapable shadow.

Content to do so, but not without ambition, USX follows up its 2010 release, Run Thick in the Night, with The Valley Path, a single-track opus fueled by sound-driven expanse and a spiritual tone expressed like bedtime prayer. “There is a time for wicked illusion,” observes singer/guitarist, Nate Hall, and who are we to argue? The conviction of The Valley Path’s near 40 minutes runs thick and gloomy, romantic violin strings entangling the web of ritualistic percussion and dueling guitar sounds. The song’s first 12 minutes is set to “trudge,” interrupted on occasion by interludes of aimless string play and distance-enhancing effects. From there it morphs into a guitar-oriented travelogue, a voiceless and grand expedition that seems eternal and, at times, apocalyptic. The song’s final minute is spent with crickets and night sounds carrying on as life continues, seemingly undeterred and unphased by USX’s vision, which may or may not have been hallucinatory anyway, a “wicked illusion” hopefully cast aside by the warmth and hope of the morning’s sunrise.