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The (seventh) new 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 skilfully dissolve into deterioration using herky-jerky tape manipulation, analogue wow-and-flutter, and an animated orchestra of homerecorded 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 namechecks Jesus), Julie Canlis book ‘A Theology of the Ordinary’, Wallace Berman’s visual collage, and The Raincoats’ magnificently shaky DIY aesthetic.
The album’s tape-fiddled tunes - recorded on the very same 16-track recorder last serviced by a sound technician who also worked with 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-handed Cloud contributor Brandon Buckner on drums, and single song backing vocals from Anacortes, WA songsmith John Van Deusen.
Swallowing The Water You Walk On
Can Shadows Praise You?
The Netherworld Squints At The Sight Of
Asking For Fish
I'm The Weakest Link
Under Your Breath
What's Illumined Becomes Visible
Someone You Can Use
We Won't Survive This
Project Yourself Alive Onto My Corpse
We Belong To You, But How Now Is Soon?