Flutterama, the seventh album from Half-handed Cloud, is set for release on June 17, 2022, on Asthmatic Kitty Records (AKR). The first single, “Handles,” is available for listening now, alongside a video shot in the artist’s adopted home of Helsinki, Finland with Super-8 movie film.
Flutterama is a record of 18 jubilant indie-pop songs by John Ringhofer, investigating 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 mainly inspired by late ’50s/early ’60s pre-synthesizer academic tape music (Henk Badings, Tod Dockstader, İlhan Mimaroğlu, Malcolm Pointon), along with Frances Mary Hunter Gordon’s adolescent liturgies (recorded at Abbey Road during The Beatles era), turbid sights and sounds in Guy Maddin films, R. Stevie Moore’s home-taped pop universe, Alberto Burri’s stitched wound burlap assemblages, 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 tape machine itself plays a vital role in the album’s drive, interrupting moments of ecstasy and revelation with varispeed pitch shifts and grainy decay. These tape-fiddled tunes – recorded on a 16-track reel-to-reel recorder – 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 open reel recordings of deflating balloons, chord organs, tablecloth swipes, piano (occasionally tracked with a baby on his lap), brass, some guitars, and a quickly-cranked half-speed music box. Ringhofer was assisted by long-time Half-h contributor Brandon Buckner on drums, and single-song backing vocals from Anacortes, WA songsmith John Van Deusen.
AKR’s relationship with Ringhofer is long-standing: the label released Half-handed Cloud’s debut album, Learning About Your Scale, in 2001 under catalog number AKR002, marking it as the label’s second release (and the first release not from the label’s founder and owner, Sufjan Stevens). An interview at WBAR with Ringhofer and Stevens from 2002 is also being released today and is available here: https://youtu.be/VpQSfdcLpMQ
Flutterama is available for pre-order now, on LP in Oxidized Tape Brown vinyl, CD, or Wild Bilberry Purple cassette, alongside a limited-edition patch and a biodegradable balloon.
A handmade cyanotype artist’s book by John Ringhofer, limited to only 15 copies, is also available for purchase in a special LP bundle via Asthmatic Kitty Records: