Noveller – Arrow (Album Review)

Multimodal Artist Sarah Lipstate is set to release Arrow, her latest album under the Noveller moniker, on Friday, June 12th through Ba Da Bing Records.

Having worked with Iggy Pop, Lipstate is a guitarist and filmmaker with a unique vision. This latest album, over the span of forty minutes squeezes in eight dense tracks that stand alone from each other in length, emotional scope, and brightness. Building upon a stern background in piano, Lipstate trades the form and function of classical composition for the bold, imaginative focus of free range and honest exploration. Rather than chase structure or wonder of its power, she actively dismisses it in favor of raw data and bitter feeling.

The centerpiece of this album appears rather early in the form of “Zeaxanthin.” This track sounds like it was (wrongly) discarded from the pivotal scene of a Michael Mann film, and such it would not be a far leap to reach related work, such as that of Brian Eno, James Newton Howard or Elliot Goldenthal. That said, this comparison may be a bit gaunt and perfect, since Arrow is the first work by Lipstate since moving from New York to Los Angeles. Named after the chemical compound underneath the bright orange/red colors in plants, “Zeaxanthin” is a haggard, painful journey, full of sweeping emotions and deep psychological introspection. Perhaps not by coincidence, it is the longest track on the album, taking almost nine minutes to do its bidding.

However, the middle tracks of the album feel almost contemporary, applicable to a scene in a coffee shop, or an airplane, or a walk within an expansive city park. On the other hand, “Rune” sounds like it would fit snugly in the early work of Nordic artist Mortiis. Keeping in that vein is the next track, “Effektology,” which could easily fit on Cold Meat Industry albums of the Nineties, where Mortiis and acts like Aghast also performed some odd, dusty magic.

Then, for every warm track like “Canyons,” there is a short antithesis such as “Pattern Recognition.” But even the darkest turns taken here are no doubt attached directly to the experiences of the listener. This is the case with “Remainder,” which sounds like an otherwise deflated commencement at an elite boarding school. Is that graduating class missing a few names due to a terrible tragedy, one from which the remaining student body must learn? Sure, if the listener chooses to twist that way. Nonetheless, the sound of “Canyons” can be draped across the warm, open air of an expanse of land. This is as “Pre-fabled” and “Thorns” evoke a darker path, one that perhaps ends with a glimmer of hope.

Perhaps the most impressive feat of everything here is to picture Lipstate culling all of these sounds at once. Crouched on a stage with over a dozen pedals and effects at her disposal, the complex sounds for each of these eight tracks would be painstakingly coaxed from her alone in front of a hypnotized crowd. As each layer is brought to form and set loose into a loop, each listener would be forced to juggle the challenge of listening to each sound individually, while also contemplating the crushing synthesis of everything working together.

While the lack of a lyrical component makes it difficult to fully assemble and quantify the specific themes herein, the sheer effort that went into restricting that obvious vocal aspect is just another aspect of the impressive work done here by Lipstate. Indeed, the ambiguity is as import as any other instrument here. To call Arrow a dense, cinematic landscape is almost too cheap and easy, but to limit it to a specific genre, role, or statement would be equally confining. Out of respect for the lush organic environments that allow you to develop your own conclusions, Cryptic Rock gives Arrow 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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