As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth
Asthmatic Kitty Records presents the fifth Half-handed Cloud full-length album: As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth, or Stowaways for short. Connected with the lyrical tradition of 19th Century American hymns such as “Shall We Gather at the River?” “Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?” and “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing,” these tunes splash about in cavernous spaces opened up by irregularly measured rhythms and pocket-orchestra arrangements integrated with creaky pianos, sound-loops, a tugboat of a church organ, guitars, and billowing banjos.
Half-handed Cloud’s John Ringhofer recorded this album on his half-inch reel-to-reel tape machine in the sanctuary and custodial quarters of a church in Berkeley, California, where he’s lived and worked as a custodian for the past seven years. He played most of the parts himself, joined by friends on cello, clarinet, violin, trumpet, and flute. Brandon Buckner, one-third of Ringhofer’s former band, Wookieback, is behind the drum-kit for the duration of this record. The album was mixed with Daniel Smith (Danielson) at Familyre Studio in Clarksboro, New Jersey.
The Stowaways LP was partly informed by the connection between water and blood (which is 95% water), Brownian motion, the moon’s relationship with tides, Charles Ives’s Fourth Symphony, the mechanics of caisson engineering, Bruce Nauman’s 1960s process-advertising post-minimal artwork, the parallels between Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery expedition and the Apollo Moon missions, Zamboni machines, biblical influences on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, The Moles Instinct LP, the seascapes of Winslow Homer, bicycles as an initial step towards the space race, Jacques Cousteau’s book The Silent World, the life of 19th century blind traveler James Holman, Big Star’s Third/Sister Lover, Günter Grass’s novel Cat & Mouse, just-add-water instant food mixes, The Beatles White Album, the north-Pacific gyre, Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, writings of the Desert Fathers, and the Centigrade scale.
While creating the Stowaways album – not stowaways as in “secret”, but stowaways as in “hidden” – Ringhofer was also repeatedly struck by texts in the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures that identify God with water: over water the Spirit moved in the creation story, through water the children of the exodus traveled, in water believers are baptized. This album became a libation, where water serves as a surrogate body for God: a submerged, shadowy image, experienced and known but never pinned down. Stowaways’ songs can be playful, like clothes at a laundromat tumbling between wet and dry, and they attempt to get to the bottom of things, or pursue a sense of place, but the location they seek is inside a person – someone to begin with, empty into, and celebrate in the midst of both warm assurance and lingering terror.