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US Christmas
Run Thick In The Night Toby Cook , October 4th, 2010 14:09

Perfection is a word that is all too frequently banded around and, without exception, always erroneously so. Nothing is perfect. Nothing. Yes, there is the rather Zen notion that ‘everything is a perfect manifestation of itself’, but this implies that everything is perfect, and of course if everything is perfect, nothing is. Paradoxically, the complete absence of imperfection _is the imperfection. Even in the natural world where any perceived aesthetic beauty is merely secondary to pure functional ‘perfection’, imperfection is rife; it is the infinite and minute imperfections that appear constantly and repeatedly in everything that is ever experienced that are proof of the miracle that is existence itself. Or to look at it another way, all the beauty in the world is nothing without the ugliness and misery, a point that US Christmas seem to understand very, very well.

It may be no surprise to hear that the US Christmas hail from the secluded Appalachian Mountains on the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, for despite the very obvious fact that it is made from plastic, Run Thick In The Night – the group’s second Neurot release – feels for all the world like a piece of organic matter, risen slowly and painfully from the dirt and in which are contained the sounds of life itself – in the most direct sense possible. If this all sounds a bit folk-y and new age-y, well, perhaps it should; there are indeed huge elements of RTITN that could be labelled as folk. The 13 minutes of opener ‘In The Night’, for example, come across like the sort of thing Neurosis would sound like, with the metal turned down and the folk turned way, way up.

Yet beyond this lies further marvel. Despite mainly dealing with themes relating to the earth, nature, terrestrial human history and the various inhabitants of their mountainous environment through measured use of vintage synthesizers there are moments – not least on the affecting ‘Wolf On Anareta’ – that veer head first into to the realms of space rock, lurching between the tones of Hawkwind upside down and the metronomic head-fuck intensity of Italy’s UFOMammut. Elsewhere the desolate and haunting, acoustic led ‘Fire Is Sleeping’ and the bleak sounds of the old western frontier in ‘The Leonids’ could easily have been pulled from a Nick Cave and Warren Ellis film score; the latter capturing with every falling note the intangible feeling of the meteor show after which it is named.

To term US Christmas a ‘group’ may well be slightly misleading, musical collective would probably be far more accurate. Across the 13 tracks of the album the sheer amount of different instrumentation used – everything from violins, the afore mentioned vintage synths and Theremins – further marks RTITN out as an album that has truly had as much thought put into it as it evokes in the listener. In a very real way, this might just be one of the most emotionally effecting releases of the year, the slow country imbued post-rock of closer ‘The Moon In Flesh And Bone’ being a apt example.

Run Thick In The Night is by no means a perfect album – on more than one occasion Nate Hall’s vocal are unfortunately similar to those of Caleb ‘Kings Of Leon’ Followill – and the swerves between recognisable genres occasional seem heavy handed. And yet it is these imperfections that make this album so perfect. Nearly.