Album Review: Noveller ‘Fantastic Planet’

Noveller – Fantastic Planet

It wouldn’t be a stretch to draw comparison between 1973’s animated Fantastic Planet and Noveller’s most recent, similarly titled, album release. Both works invoke surreal imagery that is both menacing and awe-inspiring – a noticeable theme throughout Noveller’s abundant career.  Noveller, pronounced ‘know-veller,’  is Austin based filmmaker and guitarist Sarah Lipstate whom recently toured in support of St. Vincent and contributed to the critically acclaimed Skeleton Twins film score, alongside composer Nathan Larson. Armed only with her guitar and pedal board, Lipstate pushes sonic possibilities and loosely exemplifies the foundation of droned musings – again, loosely. Noveller’s Fantastic Planet is a soliloquy – thoughtful, reflective, affirmed.

Drawing upon Sarah Lipstate’s career, it is undeniable that she is inspired by both sound for film and film for sound. Openers “Into the Dunes” and “No Unholy Mountain” provide cinematic reference to David Lynch’s troublesome space-epic Dune and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s misplaced, over-handed spectacle Holy Mountain – one on which Noveller does melodic justice, efficiently reclaiming the reference as the title suggests. Notably, each track is challenged with the necessity of contrasting it’s predecessor  – as is expected with the limitations of creating an album with a single instrument. Though this is a clear limitation, Noveller is a professional in the field, her guitar work arcing to late 2010’s post-rock in, “Concrete Dream,” “Pulse Point,” and “Growing.” Lipstate’s tone is to be admired – a tight fuzz specter that clings so closely to every note – most notably in Fantastic Planet. These jagged and cutting textures impose on the more enchanting soundscapes, halting any attachment you may have formed toward the bountiful pleasantries throughout.

Noveller’s first full length since 2011’s Glacial Glow is thoughtful and sincere, from the Interpol-esque opening on “Into the Dunes,” calypso style guitar in “Sisters,” and the ironically titled last song “The Ascent.” Fantastic Planet sets out to fulfill a sonic journey that in its conclusion, rewards the worn down and weary traveler with rest, and the knowledge that they’ve returned home without misstep. Thus proving diverse transitions and tempered cohesiveness are not mutually exclusive when melded by a severely talented individual and her bond with a guitar.

Fantastic Planet is out today January 26, 2015 via Fire Records.


“No Unholy Mountain”

-Rob Leonard


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