Posts Tagged ‘James Hoare’


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

Image result for the proper ornaments

The Proper Ornaments is a great name for a band infatuated with their record collections—a group that decorates their spare little songs with only the most finely curated influences, like so many baubles on a tree. The Beatles’ White Album here, Pink Floyd’s *Meddle *there. The Beta Band here, Yo La Tengo there. The Velvet Underground everywhere. But there’s no reason to be cynical about this London quartet. The Proper Ornaments are based primarily around the songwriting partnership of James Hoare (of the wonderful now demised Ultimate PaintingandVeronica Falls) and Max Oscarnold. Unlike some of their ’60s-loving, vinyl-obsessed peers it’s possible to separate your appreciation of the Ornaments’ nifty influences from your appreciation of their songs. The pair craft beguilingly simple, guitar-driven psych-pop stitched together by gorgeous, laidback harmonies.


The Proper Ornaments have been through a lot together. Essentially hinging on the friendship between James Hoare (also of Ultimate Painting/Veronica Falls) and Max Claps (Toy), the pair’s second album was largely an escape from drug issues and mental health problems.

Emerging from this, subsequent sessions took on a brighter, more upbeat hue, with a gentle, uplifting energy permeating their music. New album ‘6 Lenins’ is the result. Out on April 5th via Tapete Records, it was recorded at James‘ flat on a newly installed 16 track Studer machine.

“We started writing new songs in the summer. I was in bed recovering from hepatitis and very broken and tired so couldn’t do anything else apart from playing guitar,” says Max, “and the songs slowly started to appear. In August we realised we had five new songs each and free time, so we decided to record them. The actual recording only took two weeks and it was considerably easier than our previous recordings.”

Stripped from the LP, ‘Song For John Lennon’ is a curious return, with its warm tones seeming to envelope you from every side. A tip of the cap to the titular Beatle, ‘Song For John Lennon’ oozes out of the speakers like aural honey; completely addictive.


releases April 5th, 2019

2019 Tapete Records

Image may contain: 2 people, outdoor

Ultimate Painting, the duo of Jack Cooper and James Hoare, are back with their fourth album (and first for Bella Union). After cranking out albums at a pace of one a year over three years, the boys decided to take a break. That led to some second-guessing, scrapped sessions and overall confusion on where to take this project next. Up! is where they wound up. Here’s some info on the lead track.

First single “Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore” reflects that. Cooper says, “I wrote it in one go and disregarded it as I thought it’d come too easy or that it was too much like something I’d obviously write. Over the next few days I kept singing it to myself. Sometimes the best songs are completely spontaneous and pure. I wrote the words to reflect that… not everything worthwhile has to be hard work.”

Taken from the new Ultimate Painting album “Up!” due for release 6th April via Bella Union Records

Londoners Novella followed up their debut album Land with their new album Change of State. They recorded the new record on an old timey 1960’s 8 track for an authentic feel and worked with James Hoare – who you might know from the band Veronica FallsThe Proper Ornaments, Ultimate Painting,

Following the unveiling of album title track ‘Change of State‘ we’re giving you a first taste of ‘Thun’, a track that touches on birth and free movement.

‘Thun’ is the name of a place in Switzerland we visited on tour last year. It is incredibly beautiful but the journey there was the most terrifying experience we had on the trip, driving through snow, having to turn around and drive back on ourselves, driving on narrow roads on cliff edges, and ultimately having to cancel the show. The song tries to capture how we felt on this journey and actually emerged from a pretty natural 9 minute jam we recorded on our phone that we decide to come back to when we were finishing the album. The theme of the song explores the nature of borders and freedom of movement; the randomness of who this applies to and to whom it doesn’t.


Change of State sees Novella continuing on the same trajectory of their debut from 2015. Motorik beats, icy, layered vocals and clean sounding guitar riffs. This batch of songs is stronger and they approach the same quality that Broadcast reached on Tender Buttons.

Proper Ornaments is the project of James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls) and Max Oscarnold (Toy, Pink Flames). The band germinated slowly from their friendship, which began when Max distracted James from shop-keeping, as his then girlfriend attempted to steal shoes. Max was freshly arrived in London from Buenos Aires; helped out by Andrew Loog Oldham as it happens, to escape a drug-lead implosion of a previous band and a family member’s plan to have him sectioned.

The chance meeting blossomed into an epicurean riot of luminous highs and cold, dismal crashes that conversely produced music that was very well ordered and faintly angelic. It was so much deeper and more refined, serious, simple and affecting than anything suggested by the bare facts – a guitar band in East London, ten years into the infancy of a millennium that had so far freighted those five words with plenty of horrendous mental associations.


They released a single on San Francisco’s Make a Mess and an early E.P. with London’s No Pain in Pop in 2011 – then a collection, “Waiting for the Summer” (Lo Recordings) in 2013, which bore the influence of past UK guitar music: The Beatles, Felt, Durutti Column, Television Personalities, Teenage Fanclub – framed by West Coast psychedelia and sunshine pop. Tape recorded and unpretentious in all sorts of ways, it seemed bound to slide around the sides of a snow globe-like mainstream, into that ambivalent fate of being a bands’ band: Real Estate, Woods, Crystal Stilts, and Metronomy solicited them for support slots.

Debut LP “Wooden Head” came out in July 2014 and was heard more widely. Perfecting the unique slant of their previous work and polishing it, the album crackled with hints of something majestic behind what could at first be heard, a secret sotto voce world inside. It was as quietly sly and mercurial as it was driving and accessible, and its masterly crafted simplicity drew extensive critical praise. The sweetness of the record, unless you took to a certain track with the lyrics, in fact belied their circumstances. They were living in Whitechapel on slender means and debauched psyches, crawling through the remains of homelessness, unemployment and divorce. Unpredictable, violent acquaintances that were occasionally made band members orbited and crashed. The album was made in a whirlwind of chair-breaking, knife-drawing chaos.


James and Max started out writing the follow-up in January 2015. On “Foxhole” they’ve sliced away a whole stratum of their sound, removing some distortion and lowering the frequency of plectrum strokes to allow more nuanced, piano-led ideas to emerge. The title isn’t a reference to Television’s jaunty proto-punk record but seems to be more of a dark, protective interior, a head space sketched out on “Jeremy’s Song.” While their particularly recognisable production style (a bright, frozen counterpoint to the airless mixes one encounters more often) remains, three things stand out as likely reasons for the shift in mood. By the time they got around to recording again in James” bedroom in Finsbury Park that Summer, the instability around the recording of “Wooden Head” (and the five years before) had slid into a deep and seething acrimony. Second, they both bought pianos. Third, when the band, with Daniel Nellis and Bobby Syme joining on bass and drums went to record at Tin Room in Hackney in June, the pinch wheel on the 8 track machine was broken and somehow no one noticed. All but one recording, “Frozen Stare,” was hopelessly warped, so they went and did it all again from scratch back at James“.

“We ended up doing the whole thing there as the atmosphere suited the direction of the foxhole and we were more comfortable working on it in our own time,” says James, “We wanted to move in a slightly different direction from “Wooden Head,” away from the distorted guitars and into a more peaceful area.”
The mechanical blow out that had wasted weeks of their time and money coincided with a thaw in their friendship, and by the time they were re-recording they were both being treated conspicuously gentler by life.

“That’s why the record has a laid back, conversational, not imposing or anxious feel in my opinion,” Max says about their rapprochement, “There’s also the technical limitation of doing it on an 8 track which gives the songs a more sparse sound.”


Themes of their previous work have been picked up again and honed. The sense of being overlooked and isolated, inevitable change and drift particularly set in terms of age, predominates. Undercutting the feelings of forward movement are ones of a gnawing permanent stasis and confusion wrought by memory. It’s a sombre but also more direct and open effort, from its first number “Back Pages” (“See me on the back page/of last year’s modern age”) onwards.

If “Always There” was the most melodically fluid but dimly lit point of the first record, there are another half album of songs here at least that are as strikingly gorgeous and unsettling. “Memories,” “Just a Dream,” “Frozen Stare” and “When We Were Young” are in this mould, as is the icy, slightly devastated goodbye that closes the record “The Devils,” filled out with piano reminiscent of Big Star’s “Third” or Lou Reed’s “Berlin” and cracked double bass. What was in evidence in two of their earliest songs – “You Still” and “Are You Going Blind?” – an understated, poetic play of moral sensitivity against a callous distance, of warmth and hostility, has reached its most sustained expression yet and gives their pop moments of a haunted love song quality along the lines of Del Shannon, Lesley Gore or Roy Orbison.

“Bridge by a Tunnel” and “When You Wake,” on the other hand, share in the breezily abstracted character of 2014 single “Magazine,” the later laying a sardonic (non)apology – “I know you know, things could’ve been different/but they’e not” over careful daubs of slide guitar. “Cremated” is also guitar-lead, and reaches an early apogee of morbid oblivion baiting, while “1969” is a really perfectly recorded grand sweep of sound that recalls Serge Gainsbourg and “Harvest”-era Neil Young.

Proper Ornaments hold the attraction of seeming to not try very hard at all and achieve something outstanding nonetheless. Quite apart from our attachment to laziness and chance which make this seductive, textures of dappled drums, softened-out guitars and vocal harmonies that slide along as effortlessly as this, any evidence of conscious construction spirited away, are in themselves totally ecstatic to listen to.

After their debut album ‘Wooden Head’ was released in 2014, in between their other ventures James Hoare from Veronica Falls and the brilliant Ultimate Painting and Max Claps from Toy got back in a room together. Back in November there was another track by Proper Ornaments, It’s the second song they’ve shared from their second LP ‘Foxhole “Creamated -Blown Away” was the first but this from this wonderful duo of Ultimate Painting’s James Hoare and Toy’s Max Oscarnold. The band is back today with “Bridge By A Tunnel,” a Velvet Underground-indebted low-key groove that will have you comfortably easing into the work week’s wintry abyss. It’s from their imminent sophomore album Foxhole is due out 20th January via Slumberland in the US and Tough Love in the rest of the world.

The Proper Ornaments – Foxhole – 2017

Spilt Milk is the latest album from indie auteur Pete Astor, previously of The Loft, The Weather Prophets, and other esteemed acts. It was recorded onto ½ inch tape at the home studio of James Hoare of Ultimate Painting, The Proper Ornaments and Veronica Falls, with James playing guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and singing backing vocals. “He was”, says Astor, “an amazing band.” Other contributions came from members of Astor’s live band, with Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, Withered Hand) supplying vocals, Jack Hayter (Hefner) on pedal steel, Alison Cotton (The Left Outsides) on viola, and Robin Christian (Male Bonding) and Susan Milanovic (Feathers) on drums.

The album has all the hallmarks of a future Pete Astor classic, drawing together key strands and tributaries of his work over the years, blending intuitive songwriting, acute lyrics and incisive melodies. After many years making more experimental, electronic music Astor has come full circle to the sound that made his name. He explains, “I’m back to being myself, bringing together sounds that I’ve used over time to make a record that sounds more like me than me!”

From the opening track “Really Something” to the recent single “Mr Music” (a favourite of Marc Riley and Gideon Coe on BBC 6 music) the album’s re-connects Astor’s bespoke guitar pop with his long-standing embrace of The Velvet Underground’s musical DNA. Other standout tracks include “My Right Hand”, a hymn to everyone’s best friend, with guest appearances from Tony Hancock, Marvin Gaye, Philip Larkin and a host of ex-girlfriends; the slow burning drama of “The Getting There” recalling the atmospheres of Astor’s 80s kindred spirits, The Go-Betweens. Also, there is the wry drive of “Very Good Lock”, summed up by Astor as “a description of an injurious medical condition that often affects the male of the species”. Elsewhere there are the gorgeous harmonies of the grown up country lament “Good Enough”, which wouldn’t be out of place on one of George Jones’ most heartbroken albums.

Spilt Milk is part of a continuum: from Astor’s beginnings with The Loft and The Weather Prophets on Creation Records in the 1980s, via his solo work through the 1990s and his more left field albums with The Wisdom of Harry and Ellis Island Sound on Matador Records, Heavenly and Peacefrog, through to his return to solo work with the Songbox album in 2012. As well as this ongoing musical activity, Astor is also Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster, where he teaches, researches and writes about music; 2014 saw the publication of his study of Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation as part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series.

Astor remains in touch, engaged and vital in a way that is rare with someone with such longevity. The album continues the story of one of one of England’s most respected and significant songwriters. As Astor says, “time passes, shit happens; some losses, some gains.

Ultimate Painting , The band was so happy with the previous recording that they offered a few of the tracks from the show alongside some others on a “live tour bootleg” cassette. After last year’s excellent self-titled debut, they went right ahead this year and dropped “Green Lanes”, which is one of those follow-ups that doesn’t change trajectory, but adds another dozen really good songs to already-strong repertoire.

New and old songs were on display side-by-side at this show at Rough Trade in NYC, where the band took the stage and launched promptly into “Ultimate Painting,” “Rolling In the Deep End” and “Riverside” from their first album before the new “(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues” came in for a visit. The band’s love of classic English rock is obvious, and they honor their musical taste with some of the best and most approachable new writing in the genre among just about anyone from their native UK. Of the new material, the band’s strongest entrant might well be the album’s first song, “Kodiak,” a sunny jaunt that shows off the band’s trademark skill at making rock hooks. To wind things up, the band played “Ten Street” from the first album, turning it into a 13-minute guitar centerpiece. When their 50 minutes were up, the band didn’t tease us with a will-they-or-won’t-they encore situation. They had said what they were going to say, and informed us that we could meet them at the merch booth. Anything else would be un-Britishly improper.

hi and lo recorded this set with a soundboard feed from Rough Trade engineer Dustin, together with Schoeps MK4 microphones from our usual “FOB” location. The sound quality is outstanding. Enjoy


Acidjack was early on the bandwagon for Ultimate Painting, as he captured the band back in 2014 and raved about their debut album. The British neo-psych quartet is now three records into their career and just completed a headlining tour with twelve US dates in support of their newest release, Dusk (Trouble In Mind Records). The tour’s final date was last week at Bowery Ballroom and if the crowd was not packed, it was notable for the music luminaries in attendance — Matador Records co-founder Gerard Cosloy, Rolling Stone’s senior editor David Fricke, Stereogum founder Scott Lapatine, and brooklyn vegan’s Bill Pearis.

Ultimate Painting’s set was a seventy-minute exercise in precision and synchronicity. The band’s two protagonists, Jack Cooper and James Hoare share vocal and lead-guitar duties and both are superb performers. The other aspect of the band’s success is the songwriting. The songs can be tight and guitar driven psych-pop, but when the band wants to open up and explore, they remain focused and in synch. While Ultimate Painting does borrow stylistically from the mid-60s London scene, the music also shows influences from the US — the Velvets and Television in particular. Among contemporary comparisons, I hear similarities to White Fence and Courtney Barnett (“Central Park Blues” in particular). The band worked through a nice selection of numbers from all three of their albums before ending the set with a sixteen-minute extended version of “Ten Street” that capped off the show in fine fashion.


Recorded this set with the Schoeps cards in the balcony mixed with Kenny’s outstanding feed. The sound quality is superb.