Release Date: Jan 27, 2015
Record label: Fire Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Experimental musician Sarah Lipstate took on the moniker Noveller for her solo instrumental guitar work. Implementing a small arsenal of looping pedals and other processing gear, Noveller turned out beautifully cinematic albums like the darkly beautiful tones of 2013's No Dreams and the frigid daydreams of 2011's aptly named Glacial Glow. Seventh album Fantastic Planet sees Lipstate moving away from the meditative darkness that has defined much of her work, growing into something more deliberately celebratory, excitable, and indeed fantastical.
The material that Noveller's Sarah Lipstate has recorded over the last half decade focuses on the power of small gestures. Consisting mostly of drones sourced from solo guitar, her albums rely on deceptively dynamic elements that shift almost imperceptibly, forcing you to engage with each guitar lead, each swooning bass drone. On Fantastic Planet, Lipstate's latest LP, this detail-oriented approach is foregrounded for the first time, allowing the pieces to breathe with a vibrancy that they hadn't been able to attain before.
If sitting down and diving into a record really is a luxury, then it’s safe to say Sarah Lipstate’s work as Noveller is nothing if not the well-appointed space raga master suite. And seven albums in, it would seem she’s taken her patient drift and serene guitar squall to some furtive, surprising, and picturesque new places. There’s a Oneohtrix Point Never-like flirtation with on-the-nose motifs at times, but much like Daniel Lopatin (not to mention M83), there’s a refreshing amount of soul to be found in the garishness.
Despite some comparisons between her music and the gauzy tonal washes of artists from Grouper to Stars of the Lid, Sarah Lipstate's Noveller project has always broken beyond guitar drone into more enactive rock forms. Fantastic Planet pushes even further, into the ether where the gases from the '70s progressive rock big bang still expand. Tracks like "Rubicon" and "Sisters" feature complex looped arpeggios and synth swells that suggest the bridge to some King Crimson or Yes chorus lies up ahead.Another welcome difference in Lipstate's work is her willingness to embrace the aggression her guitar enables.
Austin-based Sarah Lipstate’s musical project, Noveller, began as an electric guitar project. Lipstate, however, has spent time doing far more than just playing the guitar. Lipstate is also a filmmaker. She’s improvised with the likes of Carla Bozuluch and Lee Ranaldo. She’s played as a ….
At first glance, Fantastic Planet looks throwaway. Its cover, adorned with a woman’s face in close-up, hand raised to shield her eyes from the sun, is entirely innocuous. Its title implies either banal cheeriness or a certain degree of wry sardonicism. Certainly there is little to recall the mysterious ambiguity offered by previous Noveller records – such as Glacial Glow or No Dreams – in just a brief look.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Like a cross-section of new-born, pink-faced babies, Fantastic Planet is disarmingly cute at first glance, but struggles to remain memorable once the first flush of novelty has worn off. Similarly to the moments following that initial afterglow of creation, you are at first prepared to overlook the relative simplicity of what Sarah Lipstate, aka Noveller, has wrought, drawn in by the charm of its unblemished skin.
Noveller — Fantastic Planet (Fire)A good proportion of the Noveller coverage you’ll find on the web is comprised of piece-by-piece deconstructions of Sarah Lipstate’s gear set-up like this one, where every guitar (including the now ruined Epiphone double-neck), amp and pedal is described in loving, fan-boy detail. The takeaway, for the non-guitar-specialist, is that Lipstate’s art is painstakingly, artfully assembled from wires and knobs and black boxes. Her guitar is seldom left to sound as it would in nature, but rather looped and altered and distorted in every conceivable technological way.
Since her 2009 solo debut Paint On The Shadows, under her Noveller nom de plume, Sarah Lipstate has cut a prolific run of releases for a range of labels (such as No Fun Productions, Important Records and her own Saffron Recordings), toured with many mentors and fellow-travellers (like Glenn Kotche, Aidan Baker and St. Vincent), alternated between calling Texas and New York her home and sustained a parallel career as a film-maker and score composer. Certainly all of this activity has informed the birth of this first Noveller LP for Fire Records, arguably Lipstate’s most accessible and alluring studio set to date.