Luluc

Luluc’s new album Sculptor will be released July 13 on Mistletone Records via Inertia. Pre-order limited edition jade green vinyl or CDs here

‘We spray our hair into submission, upright to attention. Marching to no orders, imagination has no borders. Well lucky that.’

“Me and Jasper,” from Luluc’s third album Sculptor, out July 13 on Mistletone (Australia/NZ) Sub Pop (rest of world) is a confident challenge to small-town insularity, lilting yet vigilant, and championed by a defiant guitar solo from the band’s friend J Mascis. It’s a reflection on a common pitfall of adolescence; limitless possibility battling constant obstruction. “My own experiences as a teen were often fraught”, says Luluc songwriter and vocalist Zoe Randell. “The small town I grew up in provided a great study in gossip, scandal, character assignation and the willingness of people to go along with it.” It’s a song about fighting for agency on an album that is in many ways about volition and potential; how people can navigate difficulties and opportunities to create different paths.

Sculptor can be consumed loud; because while Luluc’s music is at times masterful in its minimalism, it is anything but quiet in impact. There’s a before you hear Luluc’s music, and an after — a turning point that affects people with rare force. Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney says “it’s music that once you hear it, you can’t live without it”. The National’s Matt Berninger said that for months, Passerby was “the only album I wanted to listen to”. “What first hits is that voice,” writes Peter Blackstock (No Depression),a peaceful serenity that reaches deep into the heart.” When NPR’s Bob Boilen named 2014’s Passerby his album of the year, he wrote: I’ve listened to this record by Australia’s Luluc more than any other this year. These songs feel like they’ve always been.”

That gripping, imperative quality pulses through Sculptor, perhaps to an even greater extent than on Passerby or Dear Hamlyn (2008). Randell writes with more experimentation and possibility. From the contemplative scene of “Cambridge”, to the churning disaster chronicled in the title track, the songs on Sculptor are there for the taking. “Broadly speaking, with these new songs I was interested in the difficulties that life can throw at us – what we can do with them, how they can shape us, and what say we have,” Randell explains. “That potential that is there for everyone, the different lives that are open to us. That’s what I love in (Japanese poet) Ise’s poem ‘Spring Days and Blossom’ – which form the lyrics to “Spring” – the brimming sense of spring and its cycle, the enormity of what’s possible and the beauty.”

Sonically, the band have broadened their tonal palette following on from the successful collaboration on Passerby, co-produced with The National’s Aaron Dessner. Multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer Steve Hassett mastered a wider spectrum of instruments to fully realise the album’s expansive and daring vision. Randell and Hassett do nearly all of the writing, recording, and producing themselves, but their vision is far from insular.

In addition to Mascis, Sculptor features contributions from several friends including Dessner (shreds on “Kids” and programmed drums on “Heist”) and Jim White of Dirty Three (drums on “Genius”) as well as musicians Matt Eccles on drums and Dave Nelson on horns. Recording took place in Luluc’s new Brooklyn studio, which they built themselves. The new studio is volition and potential in action, incorporating reclaimed cedar from Dessner’s iconic former Ditmas Park studio, where The National and Luluc had both lived and recorded.

That everyone has control of their own story is at the core of Sculptor. For Hassett, it’s illuminated by the last line of the title track, which is the last line of the record itself: ”‘The most beautiful, serene sculpture my hands could make, could trace, could break’. All the songs are playing with those ideas,” he says. “Life is something you get, and you can get sidetracked for years and even destroy it, or you can remember that you’ve got some control over your life.” But listeners of Sculptor may yield some of that control, even if for a short time, to the mastery of the music itself.

Luluc “Passerby” – ALBUM OF THE WEEK: DOUBLE J, ABC RADIO NATIONAL, 3RRR, 2SER SYDNEY, RTR PERTH

  • “Rich, spare, subtle and striking. It’s a glorious artistic achievement from a band with a highly considered songwriting approach. It’s about six years since Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett released their debut ‘Dear Hamlyn’, and the intervening years have seen the two refine their craft even further. Basing themselves in Brooklyn, they’ve worked with Aaron Dessner who helped produce the new album. Luluc’s gently orchestrated folk arrangements carry great emotional weight, and their lyrics linger with a rare poignancy”3RRR ALBUM OF THE WEEK
  • “A restrained collection of tender songs… The darkness of the duo’s music is where much of the beauty is, and it gives these songs layers; there’s more to them than a casual listen may suggest” – DOUBLE J FEATURE ALBUM
  • “It retains the warm fragility of their first release which gained Zoe and Steve much respect… their work should be heralded loud and long”ABC RADIO NATIONAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK
  • “Another brittle folk classic” – HERALD SUN
  • “Pure folk beauty… Resisting the urge toward studio trickery in deference to the pure strength of song they possess. With the subtlest of adornments, theirs is immaculately played, dyed-in-the wool old-school folk, hinging on the ebb and flow of Steve Hassett’s beautifully picked guitar buoying Zoe Randell’s stunning voice”2SER NEW MUSIC
  • Passerby sounds eerily timeless, nodding strongly to the English folk tradition of the late 1960s (think Fairport Convention and Pentangle) without feeling dusty or dated” – MESS + NOISE
  • “A quaint and blissful record that shows that sometimes less truly is more”TONE DEAF
  • “This is a small record. But don’t mistake its simplicity for lack of power. Passerby might not grab you by the scruff of the neck, but once it gets hold of you, it doesn’t let go” – STACK MAGAZINE ★★★★ 4 stars
  • “In a country so politically polarised, it’s hard to imagine a record marked by such tender regard for Australia could come from any artist actually living here. Folk duo Luluc, however, left Melbourne for Brooklyn four years ago and succumbed to a productive nostalgia for the “shimmering heat of a bold hot sun”. With her voice a paradox of spring-water clear yet shyly opaque, singer Zoe Randall reflects, mainly, on the unique bitter sweetness of never quite finding one’s place making you wonder: without her muse of transience, what would she sing of? It has been six years since Luluc’s last release but their patience has paid off on Passerby. Released by Sub Pop in North America and Europe, Luluc’s profile has also been boosted by a tour with the National and the playing and production work of the National’s Aaron Dessner. Frontman Matt Beringer’s declaration that “for months [Passerby] was the only album I wanted to listen to” probably didn’t hurt either”SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 3.5 stars
  • “I think Zoë’s lyrics are remarkable and together, she and Steve make musical magic. She has that kind of voice that, when it’s wrapped around the right words, can make you cry. It did me” – LUCINDA WILLIAMS
  • “Luxuriant vocals…emotionally compelling” – MOJO
  • “Gorgeous and refined…timeless” – Rolling Stone
  • “This year’s most addictive record to date…5/5” – Bust
  • “Deliberate impeccability” – NPR

Passerby is available on CD or limited edition clear vinyl LP (while stocks last) via Mistletone mail order.


“Small Window” by Luluc. Directed by Nacho Rodríguez.