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USA/Mexico Summons Texas Heat With New Album “Del Rio”





USA/Mexico Summons Texas Heat With New Album “Del Rio”

With admirable consistency, USA/Mexico makes music inspired by the border. “Del Rio” is their third album to take its name from a southern border town—the first two being “Matamoros” and “Laredo”—and consists of three extremely loud extended tracks which will appeal to some of adventurous music’s less pretentious fans. Having never visited Del Rio myself, I asked my thoroughly Texan father what he thought of the place. He replied “Beautiful lake, nice drive, right across from Acuña, Mexico, friendly people,” and “Pretty remote. Lots of caliche and cactus”. This geographical context is hardly superficial—the music evokes a few of these images on its own, and firsthand descriptions seem to confirm them as more than hallucination.

USA/Mexico’s massive sludge metal simulates the feeling of burning in the hot Texas sun while surrounded by cicadas, hopefully a body of water nearby. There is a lineage in Texas music which can be characterized by a certain auditory heat, from the dehydrated lethargy of Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley, to the ghostly reprieves of Blind Willie Johnson, to the warped haze of DJ Screw, to the blistering 80s/90s Austin noise rock scene (Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers, Cherubs) from which USA/Mexico directly descends—drummer King Coffey was a core member of Butthole Surfers.

 

But whereas that weirdly successful band eventually traded their noise rock deconstructions for a dated 90’s wackiness, this project translates their early spirit of cowboy derangement into a contemporary setting, finding itself at home with international trends in drone music and outsider metal. Guitarist Craig Clouse of the avant-freak project Shit and Shine has proved himself over the years to be more than capable of keeping up aesthetically, which is no easy task for a modern rock musician. Filling out the ensemble is Nate Cross, whose dense bass textures provide an essential wave of noise and ensure a consistent depth to each jam. 

 

While the overwhelmingly heavy “Del Rio” unleashes a geographically unique cosmic horror, it’s important to note that it’s also funny. Tracks with titles like “Chorizo” and “Soft Taco” ironically poke at the more banal elements of a shared culture, but are ultimately rendered absurd by the noise they signify: heavily processed walls of distortion guided by monolithic drums and eerie howls which are hardly reminiscent of Tex-Mex. If you let the soundscapes take over, the border itself might seem a little silly too, and Texas becomes a landscape that could have just as easily been called Northern Mexico in a slightly different timeline.

 

But the album isn’t purely conceptual—it could just as well be something someone puts on in the middle of an acid trip while you and your friends make your way through a second case of Lone Star. It’s USA/Mexico’s most focused album yet, and I look forward to letting them ruin my eardrums when it’s safe again for live music. 

 

- Blake Robbins

Published: March 10, 2021 |

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