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Live Review: Luluc

30 January 2016 | 7:59 pm | Ching Pei Khoo

"Luluc defies, disarms and enchants."

Amid luminescent chandeliers, a cavernous mountain of welded steel bicycles, boxes of Campbell soup cans and Brillo pads, the deeply calming music of Luluc beckons like a siren’s call. 

Luring yet another solid stream of Friday night art and culture lovers to the NGV’s wake, the Melbourne-born, New York-based duo add a touch of Aussie pride to cap off an exhibition of two renowned international artists.

Zoe Randell (lead vocalist, acoustic guitar) and Steve Hassett (backup vocals, guitars, keyboard) weave a mellow spell over the Great Hall with their laid back modern folk songs greatly reminiscent of the timeless ballads of Simon & Garfunkel. The marriage of Rendell’s grounded, thickly layered vocals with Hassett’s lyrical lilts is the band’s immediate standout. As memorable vocal pairings go, the duo are a match made in harmony heaven.   

Their understated vocals are likewise reflected in the laid back tempo of their instruments – only rare flights of virtuosic fantasy in the odd instrumental bridge or two appear in their entire hour-long gig covering tracks from their albums Passerby and Dear Hamlyn.

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Their songs are so meditative and their lyrics evoke such stark mindfulness that it is surprising to learn of the band’s relocation to The City That Never Sleeps some five-six years ago. “We come back here every summer to escape the blizzards there,” Hassett jokes before Rendell introduces Tangled Hearts. “We wrote this song when we lived in the Upper East Side, but as soon as the weather warms up, we would hear all these drunk Aussies at 5am, so we moved to Brooklyn.”  

“We thought this would be appropriate to play here tonight as Andy Warhol and Bowie were friends,” Rendell says in a tribute to the late trailblazer before the duo perform a romantic, finely harmonised version of Quicksand from Hunky Dory. It’s not as edgy as the great Ziggy Stardust might have envisioned, but it wins them a whole host of admirers. Fan favourites I Found You, Gold On The Leaves and Star also get airplay, all redolent with nostalgia and paced with rhythms that glide gracefully between a canter to a resting heartbeat. Recurring sound and technical glitches throughout the night unfortunately mar the illusion but the duo are gracious and soldier on with good-natured warmth and humour.

More than once, both Randell and Hassett mention the “odd shaped room” and how they feel strange with “people coming in and out from both sides” of the stage. The NGV has moved the temporary stage in the Great Hall so that it now backs against the glass wall entrance leading from Federation Court, leading to the distracting periphery vision of patrons entering and exiting – not just for the band, but also for the audience.  One hopes the stage can be relocated back to its original home soon.

Having shared a familiar stomping ground with Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei in the streets of New York City, the band brings a more refined view of the world into their music. Just as cerebral as the work of the two great icons, but with an undercurrent of otherworldliness and peace against a post-modern maelstrom, Luluc defies, disarms and enchants.