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Half-Handed Cloud: Cut Me Down & Count My Rings

Music Reviews Half-Handed Cloud
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Half-Handed Cloud: <em>Cut Me Down & Count My Rings</em>

Song-a-minute songwriter digs into his archive, unearths some gems

As a songwriter who made his name constructing grand song puzzles out of miniature interlocking pieces, John Ringhofer is the master of intricately fragmented art pop,

with four full-length releases so tightly constructed that individual moments can hardly be extracted without compromising their elaborate song-suite structures. That his short-attention-span musical theater works just as well when pulled out from under the canopy of album-long arcs comes as a revelation on Cut Me Down & Count My Rings, a dazzling 46-song collection drawn from previously released EPs, compilations, cassette singles and vinyl releases.

Spanning 2000 to 2009, the tracks chart Half-handed Cloud’s trajectory from playfully shambling lo-fi pop to increasingly sophisticated arrangements, from song cycles about sheep to left-field Christmas tunes. Best of all are the five ornately-adorned songs drawn from 2005’s What’s the Remedy EP (a collaboration with Sufjan Stevens) and “Pre-teen Apocalyptic Film Acting,” a four-minute medley of seven Why? tracks, both vivid examples of Ringhofer’s remarkable ability to cram an album’s worth of ideas into a few minutes.

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