As a wise man once said, “…and now for something completely different”.
Jack Cooper and James Hoare make up Ultimate Painting, having both found more success in this particular guise than they did in their alternative pursuits, Mazes and Veronica Falls. They don’t hang about either, Dusk is already their third release in as many years and is a rapid follow-up to Green Lanes in 2015. Naturally, this worries me. I am always cautious when approaching anyone who can seemingly hand-craft an album out of nowhere every few months. History tells me they are either a pair of geniuses or have little in the way of quality control a la King Creosote. I needn’t have worried my pretty little head about it.
Green Lanes wasn’t for me, it suffered from trying to please a little too hard. It wasn’t terrible, it was just ‘nice’ and we all know how that usually turns out. It was the musical equivalent of going through a car wash, you are aware of something going on around you but deep down you’re not really concentrating, caught up in wondering where you’re going to buy kaffir lime leaves at short notice. To counteract such mental laziness from the likes of me, the lads have decided to retain their minimal sound but have upped the intensity of the darkness and gloom by a notch; nothing too grandiose but just enough to unsettle in places with surprising results. Considering Dusk was recorded at Hoares’ East London home studio, it does raise some concern about whether to visit on Halloween.
OK, flippancy over, Cooper and Hoare have something going on here. Sure it might be harking back to The Velvet Underground and The Byrds but there are far worse musical crimes than plagiarizing from such luminaries. But it’s not all Sixties memorabilia, the delicious ‘Silhouetted Shimmering’ could easily have graced The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s Darklands. at a shade over two minutes it’s a perfect study into how brevity is often the sharpest weapon. Nothing on Dusk outstays its welcome, Ultimate Painting are hardly a band to wallow in their own self-importance. Opener ‘Bills’ happily trots along with a simple vocal of “they’re chewing me up” as the guitars swirl in and around, almost hypnotically. Yes, I know that sounds pretentious, it also happens to be accurate.
‘Song For Brian Jones‘ and ‘A Portrait of Jason’ are further examples of what can be achieved through a straightforward riff, a meandering pace and some reverb for good measure. Don’t expect any wild theatrics, these guys craft songs, not just record them. I challenge anyone to listen to ‘Monday Morning, Somewhere Central’ and not grin from ear lobe to ear lobe, it’s a perfect lament to a missed romantic opportunity and sums up the Ultimate Painting manifesto, everything they do is simple yet effective. If I’m being picky then the album does sag slightly in the middle and I started to contemplate my Thai green curry ingredients again but Dusk is a much stronger effort than their earlier work.
Listen, we live in an era where it’s increasingly hard to get heard unless you turn everything up to eleventy-stupid. On Dusk, Ultimate Painting have done what all competent artists should do, they tone down the noise and dial up the contrast and the result is a slow-burner of an album which provides an impressive and necessary antidote to the excesses of the mainstream.
Dusk is released on Sept 30th on Trouble In Mind