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Thy Is A Word And Feet Need Lamps

Half-Handed Cloud
Thy Is A Word And Feet Need Lamps
(Asthmatic Kitty Records)

Half-Handed Cloud is mainly the brainchild of one John Ringhofer, a frequent member of Sufjan Steven's touring band, as well as a former teacher and accomplished painter. On Thy Is A Word And Feet Need Lamps, he has enlisted the talents of several friends (including Stevens, who plays drums for the release) and it makes for a psychedelic pop journey scattered with loads of interesting instrumentation that recalls influences like Brian Wilson or even contemporary groups like Of Montreal and the Elephant 6 collective.

Lyrically, Ringhofer sings mostly narrative songs about the bible stories that don't always get discussed. Despite the somewhat upbeat musical framework, songs by Half-Handed Cloud often touch on the darker parts of the Old Testament, where people are murdered and pieces of flesh (human and animal) are cut off and even cooked over human "poo" at one point. While Ringhofer takes a often uses a playful edge in conveying his woeful tales, the effect is something like a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine (or bible verses) go down.

Like his other two releases, Thy Is A Word And Feet Need Lamps (which also happens to be the first line on the release) also keeps things short and sweet. Sixteen tracks zip by in under a half-hour and the quick tracks are largely infectious with their lack of traditional structure. "You Get A Horse's Hoe" opens the release with piano, chimes, and multiple layers of vocals while "Mud..." backs things off for a horn interlude before "Out Of Crudeness: Healing." seems to bridge the two tracks with a slower piece that melds horn and piano (along with whistles, random shakers, and other oddities).

Despite the short tracks, the album flows pretty well, as elements from different tracks flow across one another and the whole album has sort of a jaunty, loose feel that reminds me of what it might sound like if you had a really, really liberal sunday-school teacher in the 70s who was trying to teach you the good book by setting the whole thing to upbeat psych pop. Even if you're a bit adverse to religious music, the stories themselves are odd and whimsical enough that if you somehow removed the context, it honestly wouldn't sound all that much different than what you might expect out of some of the Elephant 6 fellows (especially The Music Tapes). Odd, yet highly addictive.

Rating: 7