Noveller is guitarist and filmmaker Sarah Lipstate, and with this, her ninth studio album, I humbly bestow on her the title "Brian Eno on six strings." Recorded and mixed in her Moon Canyon studio with the rolling expanse of Los Angeles canyons as her vista, her latest marks a shift in mood and sound from her prior release, A Pink Sunset for No One, which was crafted amidst the bustling urban landscape of Brooklyn, New York. Her relocation from east to west coast and new environment have impacted her musical experiments. Pink offered majestic, shimmering, psychedelic landscapes coated in drone and dark synth-wave. Arrow commands an ethereal, awe-inspiring, and expansive terrain awash in swells of cinematic guitar effects that function as mini symphonies. The darkness of her prior work is still apparent, but more evenly blended throughout.
Frequently sought as a collaborator, Lipstate has most recently co-wrote and toured with Iggy Pop for his latest album Free after opening for him on his Post Pop Depression tour three years earlier. Other notables have included Lee Renaldo (Sonic Youth), Glenn Branca, and JG Thirlwell (Foetus incarnations). Noveller is only her, armed with a guitar brought to life by way of impressive skill on a wide array of effects pedals. Curious as to how she created her magic, I was led down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos, full of gear talk and technology demonstrations. Hearing a demo of one of the pedals she uses, the Meris Polymoon, made me truly wish I‚Äôd learned to play guitar; seeing her mastery of it sealed my utmost respect for those who have gone beyond merely "playing" guitar, showcasing a dizzying talent for experimentation, a practiced hand, and ear for sound.
Such mastery provides the listener with a broad interpretation of guitar on Arrow. Lead-off track "Rune" builds out of an orchestral opening, sounding like a string section backing a clarinet soloist and haunted by an echoing timpani, yet no such orchestra exists. "Effektology" and "Canyons" sound as if most of the guitar is foregone altogether, instead preferring synthesized ambience. "Pre-fabled" takes the listener on a glorious journey into outer space, traveling a dreamy and mystical Tangerine Dream-esqe path, while "Thorns" loses the musical traveler in dark, foreboding woods, the atmosphere prickling with fear. When the guitar does appear, as on "Pattern Recognition" and "Remainder," the sound is recognizable but exists outside of what normally constitutes traditional guitar.
I first discovered Noveller through her partnership with thisquietarmy, and further investigation reminded me of my favorite experimental guitarist, Roy Montgomery. She rightly takes her place alongside them, along with legends such as Robert Fripp and Vini Reilly. With an already solid catalog of work to her name, Lipstate deserves to be a household name, taking her place in an experimental guitar pantheon that warrants a more feminine presence.
Sound samples available here.