Ultimate Painting is a very simpatico collaboration between James Hoare of Veronica Falls and Jack Cooper of Mazes. The two guitarists met while their groups were touring and decided to get together to make some resolutely analog music. Sometimes when people work apart from their main bands, they decide to try out new things. Not so much in this case. Hoare brings the restrained rhythmic punch and directness of his band; Cooper brings the interlocking guitars and songcraft of his. They mix these elements together in a super-relaxed and calm fashion that works a treat. With the tow trading off lead vocals, the songs are usually very Velvet Underground-inspired, simple and relatively free of adornment beyond the occasional one-finger piano fill or organ chord. The lack of busy arrangements suits them well and the record sounds exactly like what it was, a couple of friends hanging out and recording some songs. Alternating between quiet ballads that chime and whisper and brisk uptempo songs that bounce along like feet pounding the sidewalk, the songs are all catchy in various ways. The hookiest is the rambling, shaggy-dog tale "Central Park Blues," which sounds like Dylan fronting the Velvets, but the title track isn't far behind with its lovely "oh oh" backings and twinkling guitar leads. Hoare and Cooper sound completely at home working together and their strengths as musicians play off each other in perfect harmony. It's rare that off-the-cuff collaborations work so well, so they should be celebrated when they do. Maybe it speaks to Hoare's collaborative abilities since his work with Max Claps in his other side project Proper Ornaments is just as good. Ultimate Painting may not reach the commercial heights of either guy's main band, but it is fully the equal and in some ways more interesting. Certainly if you're a fan of Veronica Falls or Mazes, you'll want to check this out right away.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra