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News Cult Reviews: Noveller’s Fantastic Planet

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Artist: Noveller

Album: Fantastic Planet

Rating: 4.5/5

There’s something otherworldly about Noveller’s (aka Sarah Lipstate) music. Coming out of the Brooklyn art scene Lipstate has been crafting beautifully eerie ambient guitar sounds since 2009. Her 2011 record Glacial Glow is an excellent example of how mood and ambience can meet guitar looping pastorals. On her latest album Fantastic Planet Lipstate continues to impress, creating worlds with instrumental landscapes and flirting with compositional experiments.

Songs like “Into the Dune” and “No Unholy Mountain” continues her earlier looped glaciers of sound, it all seems abstract and integral to what seems like a world built with music. Each song flows nicely into the next, but each song seems episodic and layered. The album’s format is soundtrack-y like a Tangerine Dream or Phillip Glass composition, and her guitar arcs and pulsates, layering, perfect to get lost in on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

It’s on “Rubicon” and “Sisters” that Lipstate shows a wider palate, where she tips her hat towards Kraftwerk, Robert Fripp, and Terry Riley. I have mixed feelings on these two songs. On one hand, it’s a growth that’s not unexpected and seems to be the natural direction for Lipstate’s music; her repetitive looping can be given to not only the pastures but also movement e.g. “The Autobahn” or King Crimson’s “Neal Jack and Me.” Both are songs that address the road with a similar romanticism and “Rubicon,” in particular, shares a similar sentiment.

On the other hand, the songs are out of place on Fantastic Planet, with the mood drastically changing for two songs before returning to the icy chill of “Concrete Dreams.” The effect is jarring and reaffirms its fleeting, episodic quality. But while it takes me out of the album as a whole, I find these pieces to be some of the more interesting musical choices.

None of the other songs exactly rise to the same mechanical Krautrock electro hybrid, it’s not the only place that there’s a sense of repetitive futurism. “Pulse Point” gets injected with an industrial beat, like a blunt object chopping into a glacier over and over. It is less out of place than the others, and moves seamlessly into “In February” and “Growing” which is the equivalent of throwing yourself into two snow banks of ambient sounds.

It’s on the last track “The Ascent” that Lipstate shows what it’s all been building towards. A pasture is set up as a background, with single notes and heavily echoed huge sounds creates a Sigur Ros or Brian Eno soundscape before and notes rain down like stars. In the background there are bells and synth sounds which layer and layer, capturing beauty, loneliness, and In all, Fantastic Planet isn’t a perfect album, but all of its parts paint a beautifully dark world which is a pleasure to explore.

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