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Noveller, "Glacial Glow"

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Sarah Lipstate has been quite a prolific and ubiquitous figure for the last few years, appearing at seemingly every important festival, touring with Emeralds and Xiu Xiu, and working with an endless parade of intriguing folks like Cold Cave, Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca, and Carla Bozulich.  On this appropriately cool and crystalline effort, it is abundantly clear why her services are in such demand: she is simply one of most compelling experimental guitarists around.

Weird Forest/Saffron

Glacial Glow - Noveller

Lipstate covers a lot of stylistic and textural ground for someone armed with only an electric guitar and some pedals, but she maintains a compositional and textural aesthetic on Glacial Glow that is distinct from most other contemporary avant guitarists.  For one, Sarah seems quite comfortable allowing her guitar to sound exactly like a guitar when it suits her.  She also has no clear aversion to straightforward chords and melodies, though that egalitarian stance noticeably misfires with her bluesy noodling in "Alone Star."  That is her sole miscalculation though: in general, her chiming arpeggios and delicately tremolo-picked shadings serve these pieces perfectly.  More significantly, Lipstate's vision is a very simple, clear, and uncluttered one.  The beauty and power of these pieces lies in the languorous flow of individual notes and the spaces between them rather in escalating density or the creation of a pleasant drone.  That is both a blessing and a curse: very little on Glacial Glow is complicated or lengthy enough to completely envelop me, but Sarah's work attains a uniquely fragile beauty and immediacy when it hits the mark and it hits the mark several times.

The album's inarguable highlight is the mesmerizing "Glacial Wave," which weaves mysterious cooing, blossoming swells, and delay-heavy cascading melodies to create something that feels a lot like gazing up at a stunning sky full of stars on a cold and lonely night.  Vestiges of that feeling hang with me to a degree throughout the entire album, which is where Glacial Glow's true power manifests itself: Lipstate maintains a constantly shifting, dreamlike reverie for the full duration of the album despite her multifarious methods and textures.  Rather than shatter the spell, pieces like the insistently throbbing "Blue" and the twinkling and laptop-fractured "Waxwing" instead serve as new chapters in an advancing narrative.  Obviously, making an otherworldly, dreamlike album is nothing new at all, but 1.) it is pretty damn rare for someone to pull it off as a solo guitarist (aside from Area C), and 2.) not all dreams are the same and I have yet to experience one with the desolate and coldly beautiful mood that Noveller evokes here.  Not everything on Glacial Glow is amazing, but the best moments certainly are and the whole thing makes for a very satisfying, thoughtful, and dynamically varied whole.

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Last Updated on Monday, 27 June 2011 04:19  


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