Noveller – Fantastic Planet

Noveller - Fantastic Planet

Noveller – Fantastic Planet

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.

This is not to say that Fantastic Planet is a calculated commercial or crossover statement, given that it remains firmly rooted in the avant-garde world from which Lipstate has organically grown her solo guitar extemporisations.  Yet like Julia Holter – in spirit at least – Lipstate has found a way to channel a well-studied pedigree for left-field soundscaping into genre-transcending openness; bridging the gap without self-compromise between high-art and emotional intuition in the process.

Although still primarily built around her layered, looped and heavily-treated electric six-string playing, Fantastic Planet also continues to subtly explore the supplementary instrumental textures of 2013’s No Dreams long-player.  The opening “Into The Dunes” sets the scene strongly as a two part movement, with Durutti Column-stirred sonic ripples washing beneath a meditative guitar figure – hugely reminiscent of David Byrne and Brian Eno’s sublime My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts outtake “Solo Guitar With Tin Foil” – ahead of segueing into a dread-infused doomscape in search of a dystopian ‘70s film to accompany.  The cinematic image-conjuring continues, albeit with more warming ethereality, on the ensuing “No Unholy Mountain” before bleeding into the multi-layered meshing of “Rubicon,” which draws a line back to both early-Tangerine Dream and Fripp & Eno’s endlessly-cited No Pussyfooting.  For the mesmeric midpoint of “Sisters” more uplifting tones are struck with buoyant West African guitar motifs leading a path to a fizzing and burbling synthscape.

Upon entering the latter-half of the record the density is turned town a few notches to give us the celestial sci-fi amniotics of “Concrete Dreams” prior to the Vangelis-like synthetic expanses and mechanised drum beats of the foreboding “Pulse Point.”  Spaciousness returns for “In February,” as a more solitary guitar-led piece is gently and cumulatively augmented by faintly-mixed piano undulations and other instrumental gradations.  With “Growing” cello-aping guitar shapes blur into more processed sonic washes around heartbeat-like drum pulsing before gliding into the low-key finale of “The Ascent,” wherein the multiple strands of darkness and light from across the preceding eight tracks tangle and twine into a tranquil coda.

Ultimately, Fantastic Planet is not an easy listen yet it rewards persistent immersive airing by gradually offering-up its manifold charms.  Whilst Sarah Lipstate won’t be troubling daytime radio anytime soon, her niche Noveller wares now feel assuredly comfortable and confident in their bespoke sonic attire.

Fire Records