Half-handed Cloud is an interesting phenomenon. John Ringhofer, the man behind the namesake, is as joyful and frugal as his music. An economical thinker, Ringhofer prefers the subway over a taxicab, is a recycler of plastic, a compulsive note-taker, and a habitual optimist. He doodles in the margins of National Geographic magazines, carries several different colored pens, and continues to use an antiquated CD walkman. When not on tour solo or as the trombonist for Sufjan Stevens' Illinoisemakers, he lives rent-free in Berkeley California in exchange for his services as a custodian in a church. His music encapsulates his struggle to make sense of his life and his passions. In Half-handed Cloud this is expressed as an all-consuming search for God. Like Brother Danielson, Half-handed Cloud is able to ensconce complicated theological concepts into playground song without condescending to his subject or to his listener.
Born in a pink hospital in Hawaii to military parents, Ringhofer's make-the-point-and-move-on songwriting reflects the nomadic, drill sergeant lifestyle of those early years, melodies clocking in as quick and efficient song packages. With a name loosely taken from an occurrence in the Old Testament, the celestial telephone is ringing for Half-handed Cloud with a message of love and hope on the other end.
Unlimited by his status as a solo artist, Half-handed Cloud stages unpredictable multi-instrumental/media performances with the spontaneous gusto of an Electric Company superhero. Full of spirited humor, he dissolves any obstacles standing in the way of his innocent bulldozing, jam-packing a sixties sensibility, the touch of a lullaby, and murmurs of divine redemption into micro-narrative and Casio sound effects. Just as fingers begin to snap in time, the artist wraps it up and crackles to conclusion.
A trombonist since the age of ten, Ringhofer picked up the guitar as a teenager while recovering from toe surgery. This same musical destiny propelled him to ask and answer such musical questions as, "What does an air conditioner sound like backwards?" Watching the artist equip himself with the sounds of a 1960's era Sears particleboard guitar, air organ, chattering dolls, stomping on the kitchen floor, and various sixties-pop influences, one may begin to perceive an invisible pattern in the songster's art deco rug. If such inspired titles such as, "Tanning Beds to Shine Your Love," "Holy Pouch Shoe Guidance," and "If Before We Were Coughing," suggest many questions, the songs themselves take a humble and hilarious stab at providing the answers.
Surely a cause for rejoicing, fans of Half-handed Cloud will make a joyful noise in the style of the artist's songwriting: dazzlingly sweet, and dizzyingly short.