Half-Handed Cloud – As Stowaways In Cabinets of Surf, We Live-Out In Our Members a Kind of Rebirth

Half-Handed Cloud – As Stowaways In Cabinets of Surf, We Live-Out In Our Members a Kind of Rebirth

With his fifth album as Half-Handed Cloud, John Ringhofer seems to know his way around Sufjan Stevens territory quite well. Like his fellow label-mate, Ringhofer explores the caverns of whimsical pop by tying in grand gestures of unique orchestration. While each musician seems to take the lighter sides of life, Ringhofer focuses on creating smaller, tighter-evoked songs that channel through a two-minute current that swiftly cruises by. On As Stowaways In Cabinets of Surf, We Live-Out In Our Members a Kind of Rebirth, the singer-songwriter’s fifth album is a wealthy dose of intricately woven music. There’s no better proof than on “The Sea Has No Face,” where everything melts away to reveal a heavenly blend of voices that sing in harmonic unison.

But at times, ideas seem to be in their initial state, awaiting more decoration or undercurrent. Most of “Divers Divers” is a twirling piano melody that circles around chants of “do-do-do-doo-doo.” And while these kinds of sentiments are fine in passing they can utterly distract, like the 6th grade band-inspired jagged feel of “Concentric Groups of Mirrored Loops.” The loops are both for the repetitive nature of the song in repeating the basic single-step melody but they’re also for the loopy material that Ringhofer clouds the music with. While the ideas are ranging through different patterns, many would be far better suited with a fleshed-out, tuneful sort of communion.

But there’s whimsical appeal in the way the piano swells, with soft vocals and an airy breath of freshness. Songs swiftly pass by, each adorned with some kind of unique touch; whether it be some kind of lifting accordion or a sneaky bass line that hides underneath a stabbing piano. It’s a sort of blue sea that he seems to shipping on and as he asks us to join him on “Fresh & Bitter From the Same Spring,” Ringhofer is singing away in his most inquisitive voice. Everything circles the many facets of sea-life: currents, waves, ships, boats and even the sounds of travelling down the Mississippi on nothing but four pieces of wood and string (“Resting In the Current”). The message is never missed and as everything seems to gel away, the ending is a gorgeously rendered cluster of dissonant chords that bring upon a great display of sonic magnitude.

It’s those kinds of strong instances where you wish that as Half-Handed Cloud, Ringhofer would give into his inner desire of magic perfection. There is a moment on “Sonar Sends Bells To and Fro” where everything swells together, in a steaming pot of substance and in-depth style. Even with brevity, Ringhofer has the ability of being able to dive deep into his sounds. He might be singing about the water inside his blood, but if even half of his material contained more of the ‘bigger’ sounds – as opposed to the lighter accord he prefers – there’d be something fantastically great to say about As Stowaways In Cabinets of Surf, We Live-Out In Our Members a Kind of Rebirth. Instead, there’s still pleasure in taking away the best moments because as standalone nuggets, they’re still gold.

Asthmatic Kitty Records