Noveller Fantastic Planet

[Fire; 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: ambient, Michael Mann, rock, new age, blues, psych
Others: July Skies, Brian Eno, Howard Shore (Crash sndtrk), Philip Glass, White Rainbow, Blues Control, Neu, Growing

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. I swore I’d stop saying every instrumental record sounds like the soundtrack to a non-existent movie I’d love to see, so please just ignore this sentence (even though it’d be incredibly apt here).

There’s something to be said for the game of how much something can rock with spare elements, and Lipstate plays it with great aplomb. No piece stays placid for very long. Checking out those minute-and-a-half iTunes previews, one might mistake Fantastic Planet for more of the same. But these are restless songs that take you to through a slew of wondrous environs in medium-sized commutes. The exception to this is “Pulse Point,” a cellar door-slamming, cloud-splitting seven minutes that are easily the most immediate on the album. Likely many of you would prefer to hear Noveller return to her noisier early sound, but it’d be a shame to miss the growth the project has undergone since then: Lipstate is a songwriter (dreamscapist, mood-ring calibrator, realm-carver, etc.) of the first order, both familiar and foreign, icy and emotive. She deserves more props for the strange magic she makes.

Although there are many layers, her songs still come through as one voice, and it is distinct enough that words can finally truly be useless for awhile. Fantastic Planet is an achievement in advancing that voice to a clear-eyed place, where wonder and apprehension can peacefully coexist. Guitar peals bust out like a sudden rush of cool night air; 1980s culture fantasy vibes spill out like crazy. But this is no Rangers record. This is elegant, sophisticated music for those of us who have a better version of the Blade Runner soundtrack in our head than what’s actually there.

It’s the extension and fortification of pop influences, yet it seethes with a yearning to disassemble them. It’s a daydream, though it is decidedly nightshaded. It is being pulled toward the dream and reminded of its intangibility all at once. A purposeful obfuscation. Sleep-deprived taxi rides along redolently appointed landscapes. You’re waking up, but you’re still tired. Part of you loves the straddling. Luckily you have no where to be for 40 minutes.

Links: Noveller - Fire

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