Ivan Hoe and Other Tales may be one of the most ambitious projects to come our way, but it’s also one of the most successful: a complex multi-media project that entertains on many levels. Even those unfamiliar with Sir Walter Scott’s source material will be familiar with the names and settings: The Crusades, King Richard, Lady Rowena, Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood. The text comes to life in occasional readings, manipulated to fit the sonic context: tape loops and drones, accompanied by footsteps and forest sounds. As the story unfolds, the listener hears fragments in speech and the rest in music, a kind touch that keeps the project grounded in literature while allowing the imagination to roam free.
The timbre remains mysterious throughout, as a melancholic mist descends early and refuses to lift. While listening, one loses one’s bearings and hopes to stumble upon a signpost. Every recognizable turn – a sudden electronic shift, a discernibly slowed loop – acts as a bread crumb dropped by the artist. Unlike Scott’s novel, the score refuses to provide an ending. The tracks play with repetition, underlining the ongoing nature of the novel’s themes: love, loss, reversal, redemption.
But there’s more to the project than music and source. The final cut serves as an alternate score to “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”. Some optional additions include a series of tarot-like art cards and a rose quartz accompanied by an explanation of its supposed properties. Finally, those who really want to get into the project can do so literally by purchasing a t-shirt! Looking at all this (I bought everything but the shirt), I can’t imagine the presenters making any money; there’s just too much offered for too small a price. The industry needs more projects like this – tactile releases that garner excitement and intrigue. Hopefully the artist and label will consider a second printing.
Despite the beauty of the physical offering, it’s important to note that the music is the best part. The sense of setting is highlighted by numerous field recordings – brook, bird, breeze. Scott’s old story takes on new nuance. One is immersed in a medieval world, devoid of modern accoutrements. The tones drift like the wisps between woods, helping one to imagine the enchantments of a bygone era in which danger and magic coexisted and wonder was still intact. (Richard Allen)