The Volume Settings Folder
Ivan Hoe And Other Tales






Venice, Italy-based guitarist and electro-acoustic performer Filippo Bordigato’s best known alias is undoubtedly the quirky Möbelstück Beckmann, more commonly abbreviated as M. Beckmann nowadays. Drawing inspirations from chart-storming Post Rock bands as well as manifold pearl diving sessions in the oceans of Drone, Bordigato blends golden-shimmering guitar strings with thermal heat-encapsulating synth clouds and traversing drone streams, oscillating between rural panoramas and ethereal counterparts. His latest project is much darker, more mystical and perturbed by a forlorn melancholia. Under the moniker of The Volume Settings Folder, the producer philanders with purposefully retrogressive montage techniques, injects pernicious blood-tinged synth streams and ennobles this cocktail with generous amounts of echo and hall effects. Ivan Hoe And Other Tales, released in November 2012 on Hamburg, Germany’s Organic Industries label in various limited editions chock-full of cassettes, CD’s, crystals and even rose quartzes, is a seven track-journey through medieval climes, at least that is what both the title – a nod to Sir Walter Scott’s romantic novel Ivanhoe from 1820 – and the front artwork with its Ouroboros motif and the aculeate rose suggest. You can purchase and listen to the album in full via this Bandcamp link. Bordigato can of course only offer a certain transfiguration and does not go all-in on the given prospect in the way many folklore bands and barnstormers tend to do, but be it as it may, the story is set and complemented by the titular Other Tales. In the artist’s own words, "Ivan Hoe came to me from old tape cassettes for English summer homeworks. It became essentially a journey into an almost cold, dark and aseptic forest, ending with a come-back to a warm home. You experiment, in music and life, with new situations, and in the end you realize that somehow things come back to their roots." In a similar fashion, Boards Of Canada’s sophomore album on Warp Records, the kaleidoscopic Geogaddi (2002), turned the same statement into music: a cluttering, disheveling journey full of wonders and adventures leads back to the sobering personal perception of one’s reality. With this arc of suspense in mind, I will approach Ivan Hoe And Other Tales.


The gateway to the endemic portentous soundscape of The Volume Settings Folder is fittingly embodied by Ivan Hoe. Or better yet, by a muffled and distorted audio book excerpt. The British accent of the woman is strangely soothing but quite terrifying due to the alterations applied by Bordigato and the ensuing chopped staccato maelstrom that mangles the female voice in order to make room for an adamant Dronescape full of towering pompousness and eery reverberations. The vault-like catacomb is intensified with the help of both an occasionally dropped grinding breakbeat, harking back to Autechre’s early 90’s material, and an abyssal demonic bass drone layer. In its fourth minute, Ivan Hoe has long reached proper Dark Ambient grounds. Ecclesial synth choirs, rusty figments and a gargantuan wideness with added clicks and slivers make it a goosebumps-fueling, only slightly illuminated critter of pitch-black gravity. Reading The Name Of The Rose while this tune is running should widen the senses of the reader more than a bit. Ivan Hoe’s closing phase comprises a cricket-filled nightscape and scents of fresh air. Wherever the listener has been, he or she is now alfresco and rather safe. The impact of this opener cannot be underestimated, nor can the feeling of dreariness be eliminated. Ivan Hoe feels mournful and truly heavy. Its sound waves weigh an awful lot. After this soul-crushing density, the following Lerkil is an almost blithesome listening experience in comparison, except that it is, of course, not; it is nonetheless much gentler, and it is here that the aforementioned ethereality is unchained big time. Arpeggiated synth crystals gyrate around the hazy blue-tinted mist, mellow streams of warmth are meandering next to infinitesimally plinking particles. This state is maintained for several minutes before a clear-cut guitar melody is added, boosting the yearning and meaningfulness, but otherwise grants the soundscape to continue. The loftiness of Lerkil is its big strength, as is the incessantly reoccurring crystal theme which transports moments of Pop Ambient grace to the ears of the listener. Due to the wraithlike opulence, the arrangement does not feel balmy rather than cold and tense, but the ubiquitous luminosity is still much more amicable than the sinister opener.


Arborea Ospiza is the next stop on the journey. The female voice greets the listener once again in the introductory phase, and soon enough fades out in a rather echoey fashion. The haziness is revved up to huge proportions, this is a proper Drone track full of monotonous blurred streams, admixed fragile variations of subdued strings and croaking frogs. Everything seems so distant and far away in this track, even if you turn up the volume, it is only the blur that increases, not necessarily the granularity, let alone the depth of the layers. Arborea Ospiza provides a gossamer stream of girdling entanglements, enigmatic tone sequences, and yes, even understated moments of euphoria, but these are admittedly hard to grasp. The aural color palette consists of whitewashed pastel hues, the peacefulness is maintained throughout the duration. In a way, Arborea Ospiza is the most contemplative Drone track of the album with the least amount of piercing or disruptive elements. Camera, on the other hand, is interspersed by lots of different vesicles and is clearly progressive, but not in a good way. Launching with bonfire crackles and warm but heavily processed two-note guitar loops, the song opens up after two minutes with additional strings that bathe in epicurean nostalgia. The rumbling pattern of the accentuating cove-like drone layers provides deepness, as do the short wind gusts that float in from time to time. The last third of Camera experiences a stacked wooden IDM/Jungle beat (!) in adjacency to incandescent harmonica tones. While the ever-changing scheme of this tune is undoubtedly impressing in its orchestrated, arranged form, the actual parts do not fit together all too well. The added beat structure is overly playful, the clarity and transparency of the strings and beats does not fit the deliberate blurriness that was heretofore presented and is back in place after this tune. I get that in order to set the story arc to music, there need to be changing moods and surfaces, but this is one – the only – example where The Volume Settings Folder did not get the balance right.


The fifth track, called Purity III, is a threnodic Drone piece, and a proper one, too. It is refreshingly streamlined, Filippo Bordigato makes sure that the bewailing yearning factor is continually maintained at the same level: a peaceful contemplation is set up in the veins of Arborea Ospiza. Intertwined cloudy synth washes and processed guitar layers flow in a graceful state with only a glowing guitar siren reaching out of this aqueous fog. This is another densely layered track. If you listen closely, you can spot several euphonious tonalities which never disturb the solemnity rather than secretly nurture its sumptuous state. Purity III offers no particular surprise, a good thing in a Drone album that is not created for meditative purposes, but can be used as such. The missing changes allow for an efficient submergence. Coming up next is Palimmaa, a terrific Dark Ambient piece akin to Ivan Hoe and of a similar choral nature, but less threatening and dark. It paints a crestfallen antrum. Heavily reverberated Gregorian chants rise and fall, the ensuing silence is covered by the fade-out of the reverb. This is a formidable composition. As much as it relies on coherence, its actual success can be found in the superb textures. I believe that the Italian artist processed audio files of a church choir, but if this is indeed a purely synthetic mélange, I am in awe. I do not even want to know the answer, for the magic of Palimmaa works enormously well on its own. Turn up the volume and find yourself in a jinxed cathedral in medieval times. This and Ivan Hoe are the best cinematic pieces on the whole album! The 18+ minutes long outro The Rec-Exp. launches in an unusual fashion in that Bordigato entangles bone-dry flecks, several clicks and high-pitched noises. A repetitive three-part wooden snare drum is placed in front of a tape hiss cascade, the setting is undoubtedly creepy, but soon enough a fissure accrues through which sun-dried seraphic synth strings move in, thus lessening the post-apocalyptic tension. Around the seven-minute-mark, The Rec-Exp. finds its pace: everything feels pitched and slowed down, a moiré of mist is laid onto the sounds and makes them cozier. A celestial pan flute is injected. All of my synapses literally scream "New Age!" but the setting is in fact tasteful and enthralling. It is as if everything clears up. The additional synth drones expand the gentleness, an assertion I could not make that often over the course of this review. The Rec-Exp. ends with the repetitive snare intact, stripped off its synths, with a disturbing sound of heavy step sequences. What the heck? Ivan Hoe And Other Tales ends on a blood-curdling note!


If you occasionally revisit AmbientExotica or even if you statistically read every fifteenth Ambient review of mine, you know of my flaw about having the Dark Ambient genre label quick at hand. Sure, I make a few austerities and retrenchments here and there, but since I am so easily open to influence by ferocious or virulently dark soundscapes, I am quite often in awe. And once I feel a slight shiver or am even swallowed by the humongous cavities of blood-colored aural dioramas, the same old question arises time and again, with The Volume Settings Folder’s work being no different: is Ivan Hoe And Other Tales a Dark Ambient album? I know, only genre racists care, but let’s be serious. Two tracks out of seven – the opener Ivan Hoe and the pastoral Palimmaa – are definitely frightening pieces of the highest order. The spine-grinding breakbeat, the abysmal blackness of the bass drones as well as the choir-caused heaviness and seriousness take the listener back many centuries. This alone is an achievement of its own, and these two compositions are the clear-cut standout tracks for the craving crowd of sinister symphonies. But there are also lighter Drone tracks to be found, even ones where the guitar is greatly camouflaged and almost unrecognizable. Lerkil, Arborea Ospiza and Purity III are light (but not lighthearted) examples of conventional Drone tracks, whereas the term conventional is not meant as a degrading constraint, but in order to stress Filippo Bordigato’s craftsmanship in a genre which is very well known by him anyway. With the exception of Camera in which the electro-acoustic expert cannot keep the balance between the various ingredients that is otherwise perennially met throughout the album, Ivan Hoe And Other Tales is a heavy, very serious album that truly takes the listener away. It is by no means a quickly consumable album. It begs for the right circumstances, the right time… and the right knowledge, the latter of which I have not, for I do not yet know the Ivanhoe novel of Sir Walter Scott. Well, I know certain parts of it, recited by a lovely lady that is gruesomely taken to task by Filippo Bordigato. The artist never explains whether the novel-related memories of his homework he needed to prepare years ago is of a good nature or whether he hates the voice from the audio book. He lets the listener be the judge. As it should be.




Further listening:

Ivan Hoe And Other Tales is available to purchase and listen to in full via this Bandcamp link.





Ambient Review 179: The Volume Settings Folder – Ivan Hoe And Other Tales (2012). Originally published on Feb. 6, 2013 at