Noveller is the recording project of Sarah Lipstate. Lipstate, who has created music with One Umbrella, Parts & Labor, Sands, Cold Cave, Rhys Chatham, and Glenn Branca, is also a photographer and filmmaker. Not only the titles, but the sounds on her two albums released by No Fun Productions this year, Paint On The Shadows and Red Rainbows, exemplify the visual dimension that Lipstate introduces into her aural explorations and sound ontologies. The colors and textures Lipstate produces with looped guitar phrases bloom and swirl to generate a robust, moving visual landscape that coincides with her collage-film technique and dream-world photographic manipulations.
Lipstate’s music is similar to the emerging movement of experimental artists such as Stellar Om Source, Emeralds, and Oneohtrix Point Never, who create cosmic minimal sounds that embrace ideas of futuristic/primitive technology, outer space, and psychedelic fantasy. What fundamentally distinguishes Noveller from these other contemporary artists is that, while they construct synthesizer-based soundworlds, Lipstate relies solely upon modified and looped guitar compositions. By manipulating guitar tones, Lipstate challenges established conceptions of the instrument, pushing it beyond itself and renewing its sound-modalities to manufacture an even more otherworldly, transporting sonic dimension.
“Rainbows” instantly erects a colossal wall of distorted, but intricate and textural, guitar tones that fuse with squealing high notes flickering above the thick, pulverizing drone. The lone, floating phrases and sound warbles on “Brilliant Colors” take on the form of electric stars bouncing off each other: their sound echoes leave bright glitter traces behind them. Still, a dark disposition and heavy mechanical themes loom underneath. The album takes a more meditative turn with “St. Powers,” showing Lipstate producing soothing sound-moods that feel incredibly vast and orchestral. This orchestral and nuanced droning is accompanied by spectral shimmers created by playing with the tuning pegs and cascading, impressionistic harmonic loops that blur into each other and expand. “Tunnels” may be the darkest moment of Red Rainbows, producing the sensation of being stuck in the belly of a colossal ocean vessel, or at least in some gnarly subterranean lair, while simultaneously experiencing the most intense and disorienting visual and aural psychotropic hallucinations.
Lipstate is joined by electronic experimentalist Carlos Giffoni on “Bends,” the near-20-minute-long final movement of Red Rainbows. Alongside Giffoni’s futuro-electro-experimentation, Lipstate’s alien-sounding guitar technique sounds at home. As the sonic phrases curve out into space, it is impossible to not visualize the peaks and troughs of the sound-wave cycles. Further, aside from this visual dimension, Noveller’s music is architectural: the structural sonic layers build upon one another to create complex and subtle worlds of visual sound. This makes Noveller’s music exceptionally interesting for the adventurous listener, who is provided much space for rewarding exploration.
The enhanced CD version of Red Rainbows includes four minutes from Lipstate’s sixteen-minute short film Interior Variations and a fragment of the Noveller song, “Telecine,” from Paint On The Shadows. We are presented with an x-ray image of a human skeleton, namely focusing around the neck and skull region. Pulsating underneath the bone lines and slowly moving jaw are shifting color patterns and ephemeral drops of color. They begin to rapidly modify in shape and texture as the sound phases intensify and scream. The closeup view makes the familiar human form appear foreign, similar to how Lipstate’s recontextualization and approach to guitar transform the familiar into the unfamiliar. The result of this recontextualization is that we can experience new and minute variations that would previously go unnoticed, thus furthering our understanding of sound and image and the complex relationships between them.
2. Brilliant Colors
3. St. Powers