Stifled by years of formal piano lessons, Sarah Lipstate resolved to develop her own approach to guitar. The Brooklyn-based guitarist and filmmaker’s effects pedals do not define her music, but she makes no secret of her affection for them. “I know them so well and I think they are beautiful,” she says. “Manipulating pedals is an art form, but sometimes they screw me over by fritzing out during a live performance.”
Performing as Noveller, Lipstate employs an array of effects and live looping to realize the beautifully layered, multi-faceted, and emotionally charged compositions that comprise her self-produced records, including her latest, Glacial Glow [Weird Forest].
A Japanese Fender Jaguar is routed through her pedalboard into a Sunn Concert Bass head powering a Music Man cabinet with one 15" speaker. Lipstate finds a bass rig better handles the dropped-octave loops created with her Boss PS-5 Super Shifter.
Her effects chain starts with a Death By Audio Total Sonic Annihilation pedal that she uses to create feedback frequencies determined by the effects in the pedal’s send/ return loop—currently a discontinued Ibanez TS7 Tube Screamer and a Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive pedal. “This Tube Screamer has a Mode toggle switch that goes between the normal TS9 and the Hot setting I use anytime I bow the guitar,” she explains. “It helps make the bowing more audible without adding a lot of noise. And I like that I can switch the toggle with my foot.”
Next comes a Boss DD-6 Digital Delay. “The delay makes a huge difference in the way the notes interact with each other, and it affects the way I build the layers of the song,” says Lipstate. “If I accidentally have it in the wrong mode or have the delay knob off by a quarter turn, it can ruin some pieces—but it can also be interesting. It won’t sound like it is supposed to, but that doesn’t mean it is bad or wrong. It could even sound better than the ‘correct’ way.”
Following the aforementioned pitch shifter is an Electro-Harmonix Freeze pedal. “Usually it will capture a single-note drone that I manipulate with a Moogerfooger MIDI MuRF pedal,” she says. “I might create a loop out of that to use at the end of a song as an ambient transition between two pieces. It fills the space if I have to retune the guitar.”
Lipstate patches an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail reverb pedal between the Freeze and the MuRF, and post MuRF is an Akai E2 Headrush. “I use the Headrush for delay, but I also use it for looping in addition to my Line 6 DL4s, because it has a feature they don’t,” she says. “No matter how many overdubs you layer over the first loop you create, you can return to just the original loop by double clicking on the Record/Overdub switch, often to dramatic effect. I have two DL4s that I use for looping, with an expression pedal connected to one of them so I can, say, fade out a loop recorded at half-speed, change it to double-speed, and fade it back in.”
All this hardware results in 40 pounds of pedals to transport, but Lipstate can’t imagine forsaking them for a more compact computer- based system. “The audience has no idea what is happening on the other side of a laptop screen, so they have less appreciation for the sounds because they don’t see the process that creates them,” she says. “For that reason, I don’t see myself switching to a laptop—ever.”