Film and Live Score
The Phantom Carriage with Noveller
As part of Ballroom Marfa’s fourth annual New Year’s film program, Sarah Lipstate (AKA Noveller) played an original score for Victor Sjöström’s 1921 Swedish film, The Phantom Carriage, a masterpiece of silent cinema often cited as an aesthetic touchstone for Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
The film opens on New Year’s Eve as three drunks recount the legend of how the last person to die before the end of each year must serve as Death’s soul collector in the year to come, driving the titular phantom carriage. One of these men dies just before midnight, shortly after spurning the wishes of a dying woman. His sins are then recounted in ethereal flashbacks by Georges, the driver of the carriage from the preceding year.
Lipsates’s melodic guitar soundtracked this iconic silent film masterpiece with new compositions.
Sarah Lipstate is a Brooklyn-based guitarist and filmmaker with a list of solo and collaborative works that range from short films, multimedia installations, minimalist guitar albums and ensemble compositions.
Lipstate is best known for the music she records under the name Noveller. Since 2005 she has released an array of limited-edition cassettes, 7-inches, CDrs and vinyl albums featuring her avant-garde guitar compositions. Her collaborators and cohabitants on split releases and tours give some idea as to the range of where she’s coming from: In 2010 she started her own label, Saffron Recordings, in part to release a collaborative project with David Sims of legendary noise rock unit The Jesus Lizard. She’s shared stages, studios and cassette-tape sides with Aidan Baker, Pete Swanson, Burning Star Core, Emeralds, Cold Cave, Parts & Labor and other leaders of the contemporary American underground. She’s also played as a member of Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Army and Glenn Branca’s 100-guitar ensemble.
While the artist seems to have an obvious flair for cooperative efforts, Lipstate’s own music has its own distinct sound. Her sixth album, 2011’s Glacial Glow, saw her emerging from the haze of treated guitars that had characterized her previous work; it’s a record where the gauzy abstraction of albums like Desert Fires or Red Rainbows coalesces into powerful melodies and stories. Or as Pitchfork critic Marc Masters wrote, “If you’re familiar with Lipstate, you might notice I’ve gotten this far without mentioning her many other projects and collaborations, which come up in most reviews and articles about her. Those are interesting too, but they’re irrelevant to Glacial Glow, a work in which she’s fully earned the right to be considered completely on her own.”
Lipstate’s oeuvre also encompasses film and multimedia installation. Her short films have screened at the SXSW film festival, Cinematexas, the NY Eye + Ear Festival and the Kyoto International Film & Video Festival. Her collaborative project with artist Chris Habib, ARTIFACT, was installed in March 2011 at the Splatterpool Artspace in Brooklyn.
Support for this project provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston, TX. Special thanks to Jennifer Bell, Dan Chamberlin, Rob Crowley, Tim Crowley, the Crowley Theater, Marfa Recording Company and Matt Panuska.