Half-Handed Cloud – Flying Scroll Flight Control

Remember the 00’s? It was a time when bands were encouraged to experiment with weird tonal instruments, disjointedness was a thing to be celebrated in choruses and it seemed not to matter how weird your voice was, you could be a frontman. Who could forget the amazing oddity of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the ‘I don’t even’ of Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam and the endearing multiplicity of Of Montreal?

It was a time when you could wear anything with a pair of converses – even if they were the wrong colour, a time where Zooey Deschanel was actually a new girl, a time where quirkiness was a tangible currency, used for purchasing goods or services. Riding a fixed gear bicycle was a damn strange concept, and so was wearing glasses with no frames and fawning over disney films.

You thought that world died out a long time ago right? Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, Arctic Monkeys, all those big names of the 00’s have moved on, right? Wrong.

half handed cloud

Screw the 90’s and forget the 80’s – bring on the 00’s revival. Get quirky, jangly and disjointed with Half-Handed Cloud‘s Flying Scroll Flight Control

I’ve found a band that has released an album every bit as quirky and disjointed as you remember. It’s LaLonde meets Sufjan meets Ra Ra fuckin’ Riot. It’s Architecture in Helsinki‘s first album meets Phoenix meets Peter Bjorn and John, all wrapped up in a thick-ass 5th generation, two gigabyte iPod. They band are called Half-Handed Cloud, and it’s beautiful.

Based in Berkeley California, HHC have just dropped Flying Scroll, Flight Control, an 18 (!?!) track LP via Asthmatic Kitty records and it’s quite the strangest album I’ve heard in a long time. What might turn you off of Half Handed Cloud are the band’s obvious religious overtones, yet the band toe an incredible tightrope in how they approach religiosity.

Firstly, the lyrics present John Ringhofer’s love for jesus so unrelentingly and overtly that the theme almost becomes farcical – reminding me a little of that Christian Vegetable 3D rendered cartoon. Album opener Pneumatic Mystery Envelopes rips open the button-up fly of the heavens and flops out the lord’s glory with no remorse with the refrain Jesus, we are his envelope. Jesus, he is our glory hope. Woah.

However, and this is the most important point on this album, the sheer oddity of the musicianship on the recordings means you can nigh on ignore the lyrics. As if to do a reverse South Park on Half-Handed Cloud, imagine replacing the words Jesus with Baby. You’ll still have the same awesome tracks, just with a different theme.

I actually reckon it’s really cool that half the lines sung are named after bible verses – it’s a pretty influential piece of work in terms of western literature.

The album was created with nothing more than a 5-person female choir, a manipulated recording tape, some fuzzed out bass guitar, some clarinet, a grand piano, a child’s Magnus air organ, a rhythmic zipper, two trombones, a cushioned stylophone stick, a bit of a backpacker guitar and a partridge in a pear tree. As a piece of production, it comes across as an incredible labour of love – millions of different instruments, all effected using strange, non-traditional recording techniques.

Highlights on the record are tracks Debtors to Greeks and Barbarians and one of the songs in between Titus Three and Psychic Failure, Utmost Patience. As you can imagine, in an album with 18 tracks that in total come to less than 30 minutes of music, there’s a lot of music in a very short timeframe, which makes precision in picking out a favourite track difficult.

While people continue to cream their pants over grunge, alternative and britpop from the 1990’s – I shall shun the false cult of Cobain and shall refrain from worshipping at the altar of OK Computer. I will wait for the second coming of Zach Braff, a return to a true golden era of the 00’s – and indeed the herald of the times may well be Half-Handed Cloud.

Flying Scroll, Flight Control is out now via Asthmatic Kitty.

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