‘Dusk’ suggests Hoare and Cooper may yet paint their masterpiece.
Label: Trouble In Mind
Released: September 30th 2016
If their debut was a defiantly analogue set from a pair of songwriters taking time off their day jobs, 2015’s ‘Green Lanes’ expanded Ultimate Painting’s horizons a little, while remaining tape-driven and determinedly DIY.
One year on, the duo of James Hoare (Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (Mazes) return with ‘Dusk’. Appropriately, it’s a darker, grander record than they’ve made so far: rich, heady but melodic; as ‘Portrait of Jason’ says, there’s always “a light on, filament buzzing in the glass”.
The bigger sound is obvious right from the metronomic thrum of ‘Bills’, as voices weave around guitar shimmer and droning bass. Drummer Melissa Rigby works wonders, her nimble fills adding spark to the motorik rhythm here and holding the psych-pop jangle of ‘Song for Brian Jones’ together. Cooper and Hoare’s writing styles seem to have gelled too, and the result sounds more band than side-project.
Although the Velvet Underground tics aren’t quite as pronounced as before, the pair still wear their 60s influences proudly; ‘Skippool Creek’ might be about a port on the Wyre but it’s more West Coast USA than north-west coast UK, while the psychedelic ‘Lead the Way’ chucks a casual George Harrison reference over piano, warm Wurlitzer and lushly layered harmonies.
There are a lot of ideas crammed into ten tracks – the see-sawing, squeezebox synths on ‘Silhouetted Shimmering’, or the ‘Loveless’-unplugged ‘Who Is Your Next Target?’ – and some are over all too soon, like the featherlight harmony-pop pulse of ‘Monday Morning, Somewhere Central’, or ‘I’m Set Free’, which seems set to soothe a hundred Sunday mornings before being beamed skywards by buzzing synths. Looking back, those first two albums could be sketches; ‘Dusk’ suggests Hoare and Cooper may yet paint their masterpiece. Rob Mesure