Review: The Volume Settings Folder – Ivan Hoe And Other Tales

My first listen to “Ivan Hoe” – the opening track of the Ivan Hoe And Other Tales – comes only a few days after my most recent listen to Florian Hecker’s Chimerization. Hecker’s work places a recital of an experimental libretto through a gauze of distortion, flanger and electronics, tearing phonemes into indeterminable bubbles and buzzes of noise; language disappears and re-emerges like a radio broadcast fighting through the static of a weak signal. A similar process happens here: a slow, deliberately told story about a Saxon servant returning home to his master, decomposing into quivering, delay-doused fragments, scattering language into obscurity in the process. Yet here the deconstruction feels absolute. Instead of fending off the obliterative processing and re-emerging, the words are lost forever (or not quite, as it later transpires); broken down into scratchy blocks of rhythm and then melted into echoing, aqueous guitar melodies. The whole record feels like an ode to decomposition – comprised of crackling imperfection and particles of sonic dust, clouding the air with the grey smog of low fidelity.

Often it navigates into nowhere, collapsing into a stasis that feels empty and inescapable – take the latter stages of “Lerkil”, where soft winds and skittering steps of tape reverse lightly veil the twang of sporadic guitar improvisations. As a listener, I feel as numb and vacated as the soundscape I inhabit; viewing the earth as a blurred negative, only aware of my own disconnect once a gentle transition to somewhere new nudges the world back into focus. Gentle loops cradle the edges of the stereo field, and despite the shimmers of harmony the often rise mournfully up through the centre, there’s something about Ivan Hoe… that feels incredibly hollow. Then occasionally, the album jolts back into a state of purpose. “Camera” gathers itself into a groove of beaten tabletops and fidgeting glitch, dancing around a harmonica that bellows like a train horn into the open space – it’s through these contrasts that the album maintains interest, shaking the listener out of meditation and then guiding them blissfully back under again.