Noveller – Fantastic Planet
Sarah Lipstate has, on Fantastic Planet, created an essential dichotomy: an album that is at once a deeply interesting work of beauty that is also utterly banal. As far as ambient music goes, the best stuff has always been able to function on its own, giving the listener room to conjure up their own ideas about what’s going on. Mediocre ambient feels as though it lacks context; they’re soundtrack pieces without a soundtrack,, backing tracks to over-ambitious poets or underground performance art pieces. Lipstate crafts something that sits squarely in the middle, saved from being purely mediocre by virtue of the deft touches she brings to her craft. The synthesizers are draped in glammy nostalgia, the bass is immediate, and the guitars sound like dozens of hours were spent on the processing of them alone – which, given her main focus on the instrument, they likely were. From a musician’s standpoint it’s an interesting album to pick apart for the “how did she get that sound” aspect, but that can only carry you so far. Divorced from gear-nerdiness, it becomes apparent about halfway through that there’s nothing to really hang your hat on in the pieces. Nothing sticks. I’ve listened to the album three times and there’s nothing that stands out to bring me back in, just a blur of well-arranged instruments. If you have some futurist art piece you’d like a musical accompaniment to, here’s your thing, but otherwise there are better ways you can occupy your time.