ULTIMATE PAINTING – One of Indie Rock’s Most Underappreciated Talents

Posted: February 10, 2019 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

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The London band Ultimate Painting were set to release a follow up to 2016’s well-received album “Dusk” via Bella Union but the band split up  the album was cancelled the release of new the record which was entitled Up! may never see the light of day.

“I’m very sad to announce that Ultimate Painting are no longer a band,” the band wrote in a statement on Facebook. “Anyone who has worked with us knows that the partnership at the core of this band has always been a very fragile thing, but due to an irreconcilable breakdown we will no longer be working with each other.

“Obviously if there’s no band, then it’s understandably not really in Bella Union’s interests to put out the previously announced album, therefore I’ve asked them not to release ‘Up!’ at this point in time, which they have agreed to. Thanks to everyone who bought our records and supported us. You know who you are.”

The news also results in a cancellation of tour dates that had previously been announced. Looking back, words from the band’s Jack Cooper last month signalled some disharmony: “If it ends tomorrow,” Cooper said in a press statement previously, “I’d feel really good about the work we’ve done together.

“There’s a cohesion to it but most of all they’re records that we made of music that we wanted to hear. We don’t really have an agenda other than that.”

Jack Cooper & James Hoare formed Ultimate Painting. The two had a fast friendship when Jack’s band Mazes were on tour supporting James’ band Veronica Falls, sharing similar tastes in music, art & films. It wasn’t until after returning home that a musical synergy was formed. After numerous demos were exchanged, a few casual jam sessions turned into something more; a partnership. Christening themselves after a piece of art by the Southern Colorado desert community “Drop City Collective”, the lads set to work recording their debut proper.

For the entirety of Ultimate Painting’s now tragically short run, the duo of James Hoare and Jack Cooper were routinely described within the context of their previous bands. Even in posts announcing their abrupt breakup this week, it was still “James Hoare of Veronica Falls” and “Jack Cooper of Mazes”—as if this were the side project, instead of the other way around. As if this was the band that wasn’t meant to be taken as seriously.

Ultimate Painting have been so productive, releasing one solid album every year since forming in 2014, their discography—2014’s “Ultimate Painting”, 2015’s “Green Lanes”,and 2016 “Dusk”, the wonderfully out-of-time third album by this East London’s band, and  then this year’s suddenly doomed “Up!”—represents one of the strongest four-album outputs of a rock group this side of The Velvet Underground. There isn’t a bad track in the bunch, and many of them, unassuming and glacial, are patently stunning. For my money, anyway, “Monday Morning, Somewhere Central” is among the top songs of the decade From their album “Dusk”, out now via Trouble In Mind Records

So what happened,  The new album was in the can, a UK tour was booked, a bio was written, advance promos were sent out. And then just like that, it was scrapped. Due to the usual irreconcilable breakdown,not only has the band broken up, but Up!’s release was completely cancelled as well. (Bella Union, the label set to release it, has confirmed Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel like one of those LCD Soundsystem “let’s make sure we go out with a bang breakups.

For now all we can do is take them at their word that it’s over simply because they can’t work together anymore.  Either way, though, this leaves us as listeners in the precarious spot of having to carry on their legacy retroactively—but that really shouldn’t be a problem, given what’s being left behind.

Looking at it as a whole, Ultimate Painting’s music has that rare quality of being universally appropriate.

Cooper and Hoare worked off of each other so tightly and so subtly, that their interplay often leads you to wonder who’s even taking the lead on any given song. This blending might come off as a boring  and monotonous in lesser hands, but it’s a testament to their strength of their songwriting that Ultimate Painting manage to keep the vibe simultaneously light, wavy and catchy as the best paisley meditations in time and space.

Guitar lines and vocal parts intermix freely throughout, and part of the charm comes from listening to the unified sound of a true duo; on any given track, it’s truly hard to tell which member is playing/singing what—and despite this, it’s all definitively UP. Both members put out albums separately from each other in the past year—Hoare with The Proper Ornaments and Cooper with his recent solo album “Sandgrown” in August of last year and while the projects were both inspired, they felt like they were missing something. It might have been each other.

But in the interest of the band not being forgotten, it’s all but criminal to withhold the release of Up! altogether, whether digitally, physically, or both. To prevent the last recording “Up” from release is frankly bizarre, as well as a tremendous disservice to those who would enjoy it. I can only hope that someone at Bella Union is looking for the fine print in the band’s contract that allows the label to press the record regardless.

Going back to the beginning, much of Ultimate Painting’s music starts abruptly. No count-in, no riff—just straight into the vocals of the verse. It’s a tough trick to pull off, but for songwriters with a gentle touch it’s a wonderful tool to make an otherwise quiet song feel loud and direct. It also makes the song feel like it’s perpetually being performed in the present tense. That’s going to be a big asset going forward now that this catalog has to fight for itself, without press cycles, without touring, without members that even seem to believe in it themselves. Ultimate Painting have gone out with an exclamation mark.

After the autumnal melancholia of 2016’s Dusk, the title of Ultimate Painting’s fourth album suggests a band leaving the past behind and ascending to another level, and to a certain extent that is the story of this record. Now signed to Bella Union, the record is a supremely confident and, at times, a radiant example of their song-writing ability but it also masks a more turbulent story. There were plenty of times when the question was not what it would sound like but would it even exist.

By the end of 2016, Jack Cooper and James Hoare – the band’s two equal but contrasting songwriters – were burned out and unsure of their next move. Releasing three albums in three years had taken its toll and they decided to take some time out to consider their next move. A good idea in theory but as it transpired a bad one in practice, as they immediately started to second-guess what to do next. “We both initially had the idea that we wanted to make a record that had more of an electronic element,” explains James. “We thought we’d try to go slightly more in that direction. Drum machines, synths and so on.” Jack adds: “We started to question what people wanted from us and in the process, I think we briefly lost the idea of what the band was.”

The confused sessions around this time – all of which occurred in the band’s own recording studio in North London – were further hamstrung by Hoare’s ongoing issues with depression. Eventually, an enforced halt was called due to live commitments in the US and it was while they were there, sat on a bench one morning in rural Pennsylvania, that the decision was made to scrap everything. It felt liberating…

Back in the UK in summer 2017, they immediately started over and with rediscovered confidence and momentum recorded a whole new album in just two weeks. The results convey something of that effortless spark as well as a reconnection with the bands’ innate Englishness.

This isn’t the midnight-black interior world of the third Velvets’ album (to which they’ve so often been compared); it’s a record that stretches out in different directions. One minute – on Foul & Fair – drawing from the 60s Brit-folk tradition of Fairport Convention, the next on – I Am Your Gun – channelling the luminous fairground psyche of the Pretty Things or Syd Barrett. It’s also the sound of a band obsessively honing their sound. They joke that it’s the most “Ultimate Paintingy” record they’ve ever made too.

When it was all finally done, though, they both realised all their tough decisions had been vindicated. Their best record to date, albeit the one that caused the most pain and indecision – they hope it will continue their steady ascent. Jack comments: “If it ends tomorrow, I’d feel really good about the work we’ve done together. There’s a cohesion to it but most of all they’re records that we made of music that we wanted to hear. We don’t really have an agenda other than that.”

Up! was to be released 6th April via Bella Union Reords.

thanks FloodMagazine

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