Sufjan Stevens collaborator John Ringhofer, the man behind Half-Handed Cloud, seemed to have dropped off the face of the planet after the 2010 release of album As Stowaways In Cabinets Of Surf, We Live-Out In Our Members A Kind Of Rebirth. Four years later, and it turns out he’s just been busy being married and moving out of the church where he used to live and work as a custodian. In addition, he’s spent a lot of time writing and recording his latest album, Flying Scroll Flight Control, which was released in June on Stevens’ label, Asthmatic Kitty.
“Flying Scroll Flight Control exhibits a restored perception of mystery, the magnetic draw of arcane and peculiar visions,” Half-Handed Cloud’s Bandcamp page announces somewhat presumptuously. This description comes off as intelligible gobbledygook—which is kind of what Flying Scroll Flight Control is, in both good and not so good ways. Ringhofer definitely exhibits some unique aspects in his sound, which features homemade, children’s and real instruments (clarinet, trombone, etc.), but the thing that holds me back from calling this something completely awesome is the fact that I can tell. The album doesn’t blend these instruments together as nicely as one would hope, and is reminiscent of recording an infant in a kitchen banging on pots and pans at random to produce sound. Add Christian lyrics to that, and you’ve got Half-Handed Cloud.
With the exception of a few mildly annoying songs that overdo the children’s instruments and praise-to-God stuff (listen: “Enlightenment In The Way”), Flying Scroll Flight Control redeems itself by being interesting. I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything like the album before—the sound isn’t always pleasurable, but it did pique my curiosity, which made me want to finish the record. It’s definitely a “mystery,” though I’m not sure if anybody could figure it out after only one listen.