The British duo Ultimate Painting keeps turning out one splendid record after another — three albums in the past three years. James Hoare and Jack Cooper’s newest collection, Dusk (on Chicago label Trouble in Mind), is basically more of the same: pretty little pop gems with glittering, interlaced guitar lines and delicate vocal melodies and harmonies.
But when the band performs these songs in concert — as it did on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Hideout — it turns up the volume a few notches, grooving like the Feelies or the Velvet Underground. Hoare set down his guitar to play the Hideout’s house piano on a couple of songs, but the guitars were what this night was really about — culminating in a long, searing jam in the final song of the show, “Ten Street.”
The show started with enjoyable sets by the Chicago band Deeper (whose music reminded me a bit of 1980s or ’90s post-punk) and the New York group EZTV (whose music reminded of … well, Ultimate Painting).
As I wrote last week in Time Out Chicago, one of the Chicago record label Trouble in Mind’s latest finds is a psychedelic singer-songwriter from the Netherlands named Jacco Gardner. His debut album, Cabinet of Curiosities, is a delightful throwback to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and the chamber pop of the Left Banke; a more contemporary reference point is the music of newer psychedelic groups such as Caribou.
Gardner and his band played last night (March 19) at the Empty Bottle, visiting Chicago for the first time (and remarking on how cold our city is). The studio versions of Gardner’s songs are tuneful, pretty and generally on the mellow side, occasionally veering into strange and spooky sounds. The live versions Gardner played with his touring band didn’t radically change those arrangements, but the Zombies-esque drumming, acoustic guitar chords and melodic bass lines had a bit more zip — making the songs all the better. Gardner’s definitely a talent to watch.
I arrived at the Empty Bottle just in time to hear the last few minutes of the opening set by MMOSS, another Trouble in Mind band — who were jamming out on a different, spacier variety of psychedelic music.