"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no
small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"
This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, Dusted, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.
Luluc come from Australia and now split their time between Brooklyn and Melbourne, but if you had to guess the band’s heritage based just on its music and cheap national stereotypes you might pick something more Germanic, maybe even Nordic. Partly because Zoë Randell has a Nico-ish shade to her calm voice, but mostly because the warmth of the songs on the duo’s second record sound like it’s being summoned against the cold (the most quietly joyful song on Passerby is, after all, called “Winter Is Passing”).
She has a particular knack, even when singing about events and feelings that are distressing or puzzling, of making it seem as though all of the problems of life are manageable as long as they’re taken on in the serene spirit of Luluc’s music. It’s not as if Randell has a limited emotional range here; these songs deal with fresh and buried pain, small pleasures, boredom, uncertainty, loss, satisfaction. It’s more like she’s singing from the part of your mind that can consider these things without agitation and make the right choices.
I think I originally checked out this record because of an errant Low comparison; at this point, it might be the new record I’ve played the most in 2014. If you have any interest in folk-type music at all, I highly recommend giving it a listen.
Thanks very much for dropping me a line, anon! It’s become one of my favourite Talk Talk albums recently, although everything except their debut is so closely packed that it’s almost moot. Listening to it again on the subway this morning, I was struck again how, even more than most transitional works, it feels like the product of this enormous effort. If It’s My Life still has the defences and pleasures of snark to rely on, The Colour of Spring feels to me like Mark Hollis and the band are straining to reach something new, and that strain is both real and multifaceted; sonic, emotional, theological, compositional. Hollis in particular regularly sounds like he’s trying and failing to move mountains throughout the album. You can imagine any number of bands writing a song called “Happiness Is Easy” that does not, in fact, make it sound easy, but Talk Talk’s seems like one of the few that could acknowledge both the difficulty and the truth of that idea.
Arguably, you could say that one part of the shift from The Colour of Spring to what came later is embodied in the shift from “I Don’t Believe in You” (where, notably Hollis is addressing someone who keeps repeating the title) to “I Believe in You.” Even though the latter is at least partially about heroin-as-plague, Hollis sounds at peace singing it, at peace even during the stormiest, saddest, most difficult parts of Spirit of Eden, Laughing Stock, and Mark Hollis. The agony that I hear shot through the songs on The Colour of Spring, where “Life’s What You Make It” feels more like a Aurelius-style self-directed pep talk than anything else, where “Living in Another World” registers as feverish rather than ecstatic (“help me find a way out of this maze!”), where the exhaustion and relief in Hollis’s voice as he sings “now that it’s all over” during the closing “Time It’s Time” is palpable… that’s been resolved somehow. As much as I love It’s My Life, sometimes it feels like the work of people entirely unaware of the kinds of concerns the people making Spirit of Eden are dealing with; to me, The Colour of Spring is the sound of Hollis and the rest of Talk Talk becoming aware.