Ultimate Painting – Dusk (2016)

“There’s a light on / filament / buzzing in / the glass”

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I remember reading about Ultimate Painting a couple years ago, sampling a bit, and not being immediately grabbed by them. It was the split 7” with Woods that perked my ears, and when ordering something else from their label, I succumbed to the slippery rationale of “what the hell, I’m already paying for shipping…” and threw this one in. Perhaps indicative of their laid-back psychedelia, the two Englishmen might as well be sitting on a rug a la Fifth Dimension on the cover here, though I can’t recall any Byrds influence at all, apart from some sublime vocal harmonies. To be honest, I think I’ve played this twice 8 or so months ago, but have yet to put in the necessary time.

The motorik beat and delicate guitars of “Bills” set the mood, though the tempo will be even more relaxed on the remainder on the album. There’s an effectively subdued tone to the solo that’s triggered again in full splay on the closing “Can’t Run Anymore.” Their “Song For Brian Jones” is a tribute that doesn’t betray any direct lineage, neither sounding nor addressing their subject directly. “A Portrait of Jason” too, seems to use the 60s merely as a signpost, with the titular character’s biography of “bailing from Maine to Mexico” a very different one from the hustler in the Shirley Clarke film. Their secret weapon might be the Billy Preston-like electric piano snaking through both “Lead The Way” and “Monday Morning, Somewhere Central” though some more unearthly keyboard sounds will pervade the last third of the album.

“Who Is Your Next Target?” suggests the vengeful angst of a jilted lover in name only (I’m thinking of “Who’ll Be The Next In Line,” maybe because there’s also a song called “Set Me Free” here) but these blokes are so damn polite it’s hard to tell what they’re going on about. But I don’t think it’s just me in imagining that the loping “Skippool Creek” channels a more bucolic Velvet Underground. The band is unconcerned about providing a dramatic finish to the album, and the decidedly unhurried “Can’t Run Anymore” is certainly not going to be tasked with that job. An unlisted reprise of “Lead The Way” is the actual conclusion, and the two sentiments split the difference and instead suggest something infinite. With songs not wholly commanding but memorable enough to keep from vanishing into the wallpaper, it’s easy to imagine the tonearm auto returning yet again, and finding that you’ve whiled away a sunny afternoon that’s gone to dusk.

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