Noveller, “Arrow”
By Ned Raggett · June 09, 2020

Sarah Lipstate’s work as Noveller, the vehicle through which she explores the possibilities of instrumental, primarily electric guitar compositions, has resulted in a rich body of work, one that has elevated her to the level of similar innovators like Vini Reilly and Roy Montgomery. Arrow continues that journey, further developing her darkly beautiful work in songs that combine the tranquility of meditation with elements of tension and unease.

Album opener “Rune” is based around a deep, pulsing rhythm, with slowly rising tones that coalesce around a stark piano/guitar combination. From there, the songs proceed in a sequence that feels deliberate; flowing, heavily processed tones float over distant, rumbling rhythms; at times, it summons the same sense of expansive beauty and deep-set melancholy as Vangelis’s work in Blade Runner. In “Pattern Recognition,” a sweetly elegant melody is steadily subsumed and surrounded by grimmer, ghostlier tones and loops; “Canyons” opens with a melodic figure that sounds like the chiming of an android music box, over which Lipstate gradually layers rich, milky tones. And the hushed “Pre-fabled” feels like the slow drawing of breath, with its lighter lead melody and its quiet sense of awe, before an onrush of darker notes arrives at the halfway point. In that way, it’s emblematic of Arrow as a whole—a place where gripping beauty exists, but where tranquility is hardly guaranteed.

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