Including 25 songs in 24 minutes used to be the hallmark of intentionally primitive punk albums but, with Learning About Your Scale, Knoxville's Half-Handed Cloud (essentially John Ringhofer with help from various friends) uses the allotted time wisely to craft fully formed, even elaborate pop. Scale would sound like a single continuous piece if Ringhofer had more of an attention span, but he tires quickly of sounds -- a little moog here, a little tuba there, or maybe French horn and rubber band. He does, however, create miniature song cycles within the larger context of the album, complete with phoned-in supporting character dialogue. These mini-plays, which include "Those People We Made? We Love 'Em!" and "Sooty Insides Need Your Cleanliness," together with the broad instrumental palette, make Scale appear bristling with ideas and enthusiasm -- almost Baroque despite its brevity. Shifting gears with hyperactive exuberance, moving from Beach Boys-inspired harmonies to the folkier side of T. Rex, Scale can be a jarring listening experience, but it demands attention (forget about doing anything else but listening while this is on) and can be just as exhilarating as it is disorienting. Overall, Ringhofer's project recalls similar lo-fi, psychedelically-informed one-man acts such as Athens' Music Tapes or Washington's Microphones. But the most obvious influence is New Jersey's Danielson Famile, whose Sounds Familyre label released Scale. Like Danielson, Half-Handed Cloud's lyrical content is laden with overt references to Christianity but, also like Danielson, the end product is so unique that it will appeal to open-minded listeners of all faiths (or lack thereof), at least if they're fans of quirky pop that never dwells too long in one place.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Nickey