Half-Handed Cloud "Flutterama" LP (Brown Vinyl)
The new (7th) Half-Handed Cloud album, Flutterama, is a record of 18 jubilant indie-pop songs by John Ringhofer that investigate spiritual incompetence with lively arrangements and radiant melodies that skillfully dissolve into deterioration using herky-jerky tape manipulation, analog wow-and-flutter, and an animated orchestra of home-recorded sound effects.
Ringhofer’s work on Flutterama was inspired by Frances Mary Hunter Gordon’s adolescent liturgies (recorded at Abbey Road during The Beatles era), turbid sights and sounds in Guy Maddin films, audaciously bold forms in Sister Corita Kent’s devotional printmaking, the exquisite brittleness of Elizabeth Cotten’s voice, Alberto Burri’s stitched wound burlap assemblages, Alvar Aalto church design, Andrea Büttner’s poverty-informed artwork, Lou Barlow/Dinosaur Jr’s lo-fi “Poledo” sound collage (which name-checks Jesus), Julie Canlis book A Theology of the Ordinary, Wallace Berman's visual collage, and The Raincoats’ magnificently shaky D.I.Y. aesthetic.
The album’s tape-fiddled tunes - recorded on the very same 16-track recorder last serviced by a sound technician also employed by The Beach Boys in their home studio - employ surprisingly little synthesizer (“it felt like cheating,” says Ringhofer)—he preferred to craft most of the album’s effects the long way, frequently going behind the back of rock instrumentation by hand-feeding ½” magnetic reel recordings of chord organs, deflating balloons, some guitars, piano (occasionally tracked with a baby on his lap), brass, tablecloth swipes, and a quickly-cranked half-speed music box. He was assisted by long-time Half-h contributor Brandon Buckner on drums, and single-song backing vocals from Anacortes, WA songsmith John Van Deusen.