Fantastic Planet

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Experimental musician Sarah Lipstate took on the moniker Noveller for her solo instrumental guitar work. Implementing a small arsenal of looping pedals and other processing gear, Noveller turned out beautifully cinematic albums like the darkly beautiful tones of 2013's No Dreams and the frigid daydreams of 2011's aptly named Glacial Glow. Seventh album Fantastic Planet sees Lipstate moving away from the meditative darkness that has defined much of her work, growing into something more deliberately celebratory, excitable, and indeed fantastical. Much of the time since Noveller's 2005 inception has found Lipstate in transit, be that in the form of constant touring or frequent relocation between Texas, New York, and parts in between. She found herself stationed back in her home state of Texas during the completion of Fantastic Planet, and the wide-open spaces and dusty wonderment of that environment can be heard on sprawling pieces like "Concrete Dreams." More than earthly plains, though, this album seems to aim for celestial planes, with spectral compositions that embrace full-bodied instrumentation and brighter, more curious moods than her usual low-energy explorations. This is apparent on the mysterious twinkling of "No Unholy Mountain," where synths and guitars melt into the sound of plucked angel harps and shooting stars. Standout tracks like "Rubicon" and "Sisters" take Fantastic Planet's instrumental dynamism to new levels, with buzzing bass synths and spacy loops weaving in and out of each other with all the cold melody of David Bowie's Low and even some nods to the warped rhythms of minimal techno and early electro. This is all held in place by Lipstate's signature guitar leads, shooting like laser beams on some songs and gently pushing things along on others. All of Noveller's work has been beautiful, but Fantastic Planet feels more driven and inspired. Easily the most joyful and extroverted of Lipstate's albums at this point, it also feels the most vibrant and engaging, gracefully exposing a world of endless blissful layers for the audience to stargaze upon.

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