Australian folk duo Luluc follow-up their deeply enchanting 2014 LP Passerby with Sculptor, a largely self-produced, self-recorded set that leans out dramatically from the quiet introspection of its predecessor both in lyrical content and more cinematic sound. Now firmly entrenched in the creative enclave of Brooklyn, Melbourne natives Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett dance around the minimalist framework of their first two outings, expanding their palette with more elaborate harmonies, dark sonic textures, synths, and various experimental elements. Where Passerby seemed to examine Randall's own inner world, Sculptor pairs its more layered sonic approach with broader themes about characters navigating their way through a troubled world. Whether it's the harrowing emotional isolation of youth on "Kids" or the narrow-minded small town social climate of "Me and Jasper," Luluc deftly reveal their lost souls' wandering paths with the hushed comfort that is their specialty. There are also brighter, more hopeful moments, particularly at the beginning of the album. As far as opening volleys go, it would be very tough to beat "Spring," a wondrous adaptation of a poem by 10th century Japanese poet Ise which shambles forth in rich, harmonic majesty like some lost Albion folk-rock masterpiece. Like two sides of a coin, "Spring" and its follow-up track, the darkly anthemic "Heist," best represent Luluc's evolution as a band, with Hassett asserting himself more than ever as arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and singer, the latter of which was greatly downplayed on their previous outings. Employing a handful of tasteful collaborators, including J Mascis, Dirty Three drummer Jim White, and the National's Aaron Dessner, who co-produced Passerby, Randall and Hassett have made a record that boldly turns a corner while still slotting neatly into their already sterling catalog.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger