HalfHalf-handed Cloud’s John Ringhofer began writing songs for what would become Flying Scroll Flight Control a few months after the release of 2010’s Stowaways album. He’d married, moved out of the Berkeley, CA church he’d lived in since 2003, and into an Oakland, CA co-housing community.
In the summer of 2011, Ringhofer’s wife accepted a temporary post-doc at a Brussels, Belgium museum, and the couple relocated to Europe for six months. Thanks to the intricacies of international bureaucracy, John was not permitted to seek formal employment in Belgium, so his days were filled with songwriting and making rough demos with the few instruments he’d been able to pack. He improvised arrangements on what was available to him: rhythms on boxes, ziplock bags, the radiator. He made field recordings of Belgian crosswalk tickers and pond ducks. He tuned the dings of a microwave oven. After the couple returned to California in early 2012, John began to re-record some of these demos into songs on a 16-track ½” reel-to-reel tape recorder, then mixed and embellished them in Brooklyn, NY with Sufjan Stevens in September 2013. These tunes became Flying Scroll Flight Control.
This album presents Dada interior-architectural songs, in the mode of Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau, the sound of Robert Rauschenberg’s cardboard combines, interrupted by Futurist noise intoner music of collision. They’re integrated with the radiant flicker of Stan Brakhage’s domestic/personal 1960s art films, the mechanized music of Conlon Nancarrow, Mister Rogers’ avant-garde children’s operas, and the methods of grunge-era home-taping alchemists Eric’s Trip, with scriptures giving voice to the unknown.
Particularly encouraged by German Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys’ desire to unite spirit and science, Ringhofer identifies Flying Scroll Flight Control’s arrangements with the most basic building blocks of life, the structures of atoms: mostly empty space and a dense core, around which thinner layers wind—tiny, slippery, whirring, fly-by electrons, perpetually in motion. The lyrics are primarily based on the most ancient, foundational, and audacious of Christian texts (possibly early hymns), quoted in the letters of Paul of Tarsus.
The album features a 5-person female choir, manipulated recording tape, fuzz bass, clarinet, some piano, a child’s Magnus air organ, rhythmic zipper, trombone, a cushioned stylophone stick, and intermittent backpacker guitar. As a holdover from the Belgian demos, Ringhofer and friends also frequently repurposed objects into instruments for homemade sound effects—not unlike Beuys’ use of honey, fat, or hare’s blood as painting mediums.
Flying Scroll Flight Control exhibits a restored perception of mystery, the magnetic draw of arcane and peculiar visions. It gathers sound and supplies it with structure, harmonizing the rift between the physical and the metaphysical. These are songs that sing in multiple spaces.