This is why Fantastic Planet is so good. You can sense that it means something to Sarah Lipstate.
WHAT a record.
I've had this new Noveller LP in my hands for a month, and have played it every day, at least twice. There. Is that enough of a review for you? Probably not.
This LP, her first on Fire Records, is possibly her most direct and ballsy work to date. I say ballsy in the sense that this new record is stripped back, and almost challenges the listener in places, such as on the quirky, Janus-like Sisters or the magnificent Pulse Point. It's also got a certain swagger and melancholy yearning about it, elements that run like a lambent, molten lavaflow; electrifying all the beautiful, Rother-esque guitar patterns and floating mood pieces such as In February and No Unholy Mountain.
To be honest, there are bits on here that are beyond majestic and have the sort of ethereal, haughty poise that Louis IVX probably employed when inspecting his nobles at Versailles. And in your mind's eye you can easily see Sarah Lipstate prowling round, distended nostrils aquiver, when playing some of this stuff. But it's in no way a bombastic record. Rather, the tracks like Into the Dunes and Rubicon, and album closer The Ascent have this unlimited patience and spaciousness about them. They'll tell you what's what when they're ready. Because of this the focus is brilliantly kept, mainly through the appliance of pressure when it's appropriate.
Everything comes together round Pulse Point, a spellbinding, smouldering construction that's reminiscent of a whole raft of 80s axe heroes; Charlie Burchill (Brass Band in African Chimes) John Squire (Adored) Robin Guthrie (Blue Bell Knoll). That desultory e-bow underpinning everything's a bit like the Bunnymen's Broke My Neck, too. And the bit when it starts to shift with the beat, like some great sluggish komodo dragon moving through the undergrowth is fucking beautiful and up there as a true, 'dreamy rock' moment to savour. It's superb and just keeps on giving.
Lots of records try to do these kind of dramatic instrumental soundscapes; and there are millions (it feels like millions to this reviewer anyway) of bedroom-based sound artists who use loops and all sorts of pedal wizardry. But it is still true to say, from the days of Bill Putnam onwards, that if the artist can't communicate what they want to do, and they don't really mean it or put everything into it, it's a waste of everyone's time. This is why Fantastic Planet is so good. You can sense that it means something to Sarah Lipstate, that the personal matters are pushed as far as they can go, and that her music on is there for you to use how you want. In that it's such a positive - and rare - release.