Guitarist Sarah Lipstate started out in the noisy environs of the not-fun crowd, crafting her first couple of solo works out of feedback, rather than guitar. She has focused more and more, over the course of four albums, on the guitar itself. In Glacial Glow, she filters her tones through an array of pedals, loops and effects, creating ghostly, luminescent textures of sound, but they are recognizably guitar sounds, however altered.
Lipstate works alone in Noveller, so her compositions can seem like solitary explorations rather than songs. You can hear her thinking throughout, testing one sound or another, letting it ring out for a bit and then progressing to another. Because she is all by herself, she can follow her ideas without regard to rhythmic cadence; there is no one else to bring in on the twos and fours. As a result, sometimes (“Glacial Wave” for instance) she seems to dissolve rhythm altogether, tracing a wandering path through time-signature-less washes of tone. At others, most prominently “Blue,” her ideas are more tethered to a beat, in this case a steady honk of feedback that provides a friction-y foundation for airy, upper register meditations.
Lipstate acknowledges a number of inspirations: Sonic Youth for its alternate tunings and mastery of feedback; Glenn Branca for his massed celebration of guitar sounds; Brian Eno for his ambient explorations of tone and melody. You can hear bits of all of these artists over the course of these cuts, though not in a heavy-handed way, as well as, maybe, a fondness for baroque guitar in the brief, lovely “Entering” and a flirtation with prepared guitar and bowed techniques in the more abstract “Waxwing.” There is also a fascination with the lyrical that brings Hisato Higuchi to mind, especially in opener “Alone Star.”
Yet mostly these tracks sound like one quietly intense individual’s personal reveries, chilled and otherworldly and unruffled by interpersonal accommodation. When at the close of “Ends,” you hear the sound of ocean waves, you realize that this is the first time that the real world has intruded on Glacial Glow’s inward-looking atmospheres. It’s worth mentioning that Lipstate is a filmmaker and used to making her own internal realities shareable on screen with other people. She employs her guitar and effects in the same way, building a really beautiful world out of abstract elements. Glacial Glow is exquisite and strange, like the inside of someone else’s dream.