Sarah Lipstate’s guitar-centric side project, Noveller has taken her a great distance over the last decade, most recently finding her collaborating with Iggy Pop on his 2019 album Free. Her ability to create miasmal soundscapes from guitar contortions is a unique skill. With each release, she hones that skill a little further, deepening her instrumental drones. Arrow, her 10th album, represent a continuation along this path, delivering a refinement of a style that she’s made her own.
The album opens with “Rune,” with a nerve-wracking intro of scratchy leads and popping chasms of effects. Within this soundscape is a delicate construction of guitar work, gentle when necessary and profound in its range and sound. Aside from Sarah’s aural mimicry, using a guitar to sound well, not like a guitar at all, there’s effective accompaniments of either samples or synths. “Effektology” for instance showcases synths that are cosmic, nebulous, similar to that of the composer Daniel Lopatin on the Uncut Gems soundtrack. The track’s identity, although late in the song, truly emerges through an eclipse of keys and a penetrative bass. This ambition in structure carries throughout the work, even on the album’s longer tracks.
“Zeaxanthin,” the longest track on the album, serves in sum total as a sonic thesis for the rest of the album’s design. From shambling, monolith sized digital horns, to crisp keyboards with sharp ends, to guitars and strings summoned from celestial slumbers with astounding reverb treated with passion when necessary and always a sense of restraint no matter its scale.
Arrow is an album that explores cosmic magnitude in fascinating ways. While it’s always eloquently presented, its detail and subdued sublimity emerge on tracks like “Canyons,” a track which trades harmonious keyboard notes back and forth in separate channels, encompassing the listener in a literal canyon of audio. “Thorns,” which emerges along plateaus of twinkling, starry buzzes and fleeting bellowing batches of synths. Its emergent bass constantly pushes the track forward until its latter half which becomes riddled with delayed phasers and scratching stretches of effects, a true cacophony of sound and the only identifiable menace on the album.
Noveller’s exploration into infinity doesn’t end with a coda that collapses the album into a single track, but rather with a profoundly well structured, deeply symphonic traversal across its themes. In this resonant exploration, “Remainder” ends the album with a genuine and evocative recapitulation.
Arrow remains a deeply impressionistic work, finding Lipstate equally comfortable with chilling soundscapes and ethereal vectors. It’s tremendous in its sound and scope. Audacious in its bold experimentation with the guitar, Arrow is a deeply tranquil, calming album with a palette that is defined by its ability to draw bliss from the chaos of space.
Label: Ba Da Bing!