24 May 2017


whited sepulchre 2017, edition of 200

"Midwife is Madeline Johnston. Known for her minimal ambient work as Sister Grotto, Midwife finds Johnston and collaborator Tucker Theodore creating powerful anthems of dislocation and loss under the weight of reverb buried power chords and swelling choruses." - MIDWIFE bandcamp

"Under the name Sister Grotto, Denver based artist Madeline Johnston explores the limits of minimalism in transcendental drone-pop. With 'Like Author, Like Daughter' Johnston uses the Midwife moniker to craft triumphant, fist-in-the-air anthems that tackle themes of dislocation and falling in (and out) of love with a person, a home and yourself. ...a portrait of Johnston's last year as a resident of Denver's famed diy venue Rhinoceropolis which closed in a rash of politically motivated assaults on creative spaces across the United States. The album internalizes loss, addiction, abandonment and wrings them through distorted power chords, powerful leads, sheets of drone to create building, aching monuments to past-selves and lost relationships into a positivist statement of resilience and self-love. Performed, recorded and co-produced by Tucker Theodore (Buffalo Voice), recorded in Denver at Rhinoceropolis and INAMBULANCE in Olympia WA." - WHITED SEPULCHRE

recall almost a year ago when i hyperbolically boasted that JOHNSTON's "heaven metal / soft gaze" outlet SISTER GROTTO had achieved all there was to achieve, if not on her stunning slow burning collaboration with BRAEYDEN JAE [REC# 106] courtesy ANTIQUATED FUTURE then most certainly on her split cassette with YARROW [REC# 127] co-released by TERRIBLE PLEASURES and JOHNSTON's own in house imprint TINYAMP - i posited the question- "what's left for her to conquer in the weirdo cassette world, what's left but to break out to a broader audience with a righteous vinyl debut"

well, it happened - this is her righteous vinyl debut and to my ears it has the appeal to make waves beyond the weirdo cassette world - i would be a little surprised if WHITED SEPULCHRE's run of 200 copies lasted the summer - speaking of the label, a brief intro-- fellow weirdo blog TOME TO THE WEATHER MACHINE honcho RYAN HALL runs it, a "small-run vinyl and tape label out Cincinnati focusing on experimental and ambient music" that launched last year with JAE's vinyl debut FOG MIRROR (another title i criminally failed to properly recommend) - HALL also finds time to run HELIGATOR RECORDS which "exists to continuously fund the Malindza Refugee Camp Library in Mpaka Swaziland" - wow - to quote CROW T ROBOT, "i feel so insignificant, then again i -always- feel insignificant"

MIDWIFE is a maximum equilibrium of JOHNSTON's musical capacities, an ideal synthesis of everything she previously accomplished, now honed and harnessed to develop a fertile middle ground between SG's droned out bliss and MARIPOSA's hushed balladry -another tributary of JOHNSTON's incredible talent- to strike a drool-worthy-when-done-right balance between "experimental" and "pop" pushing the underground toward the surface without making a mess of things, similar in this regard to all time list crasher IAN WILLIAM CRAIG's CENTRES [REC #167] and GROUPER's DRAGGING A DEAD DEER UP A HILL - the former is less a viable sonic comparison but the latter is undoubtedly an influence on JOHNSTON's music

LIKE AUTHOR is a pensive and wistful understated work, never wavering from it's measured pace, a slow motion elegance pulled from the waters where ballpark contemporaries EKIN FIL and GROUPER and RAAJMAHAL submerge themselves - there is a sense of forward momentum -albeit subtle- that separates from that pack, no doubt in part owed to crucial collaborator TUCKER THEODORE [REC# 59], but not so much as to stomp out that hypnagogic haze that gets me hook line sinker every time - at times it echoes the nostalgia of earliest/best BEACH HOUSE (i'm a sucker for that first BH record, the hidden track at the end is as good as it gets) juxtaposed with ethereal-ized regurgitations of cool BLACK TAMBOURINE hooks, which were always lurking in JOHNSTON's music, waiting in the wings - just listen to "song for an unborn sun" as heard on that split with YARROW then listen to the reprise here on LIKE AUTHOR

i hope i'm not too forward in stating that it stretches toward SUN RIAH's (formerly PSI LAB's KING MARY) "slow motion lucid dream pop ballads dusted with playful experimentation and hauntingly beautiful otherworldly songcraft" where JOHNSTON swaps crystalline harp for distorted guitar, naturally - for more typical comparisons i might say something like "WINDY & CARL meet MAZZY STAR" or "GROUPER meandering through languid COCTEAU TWINS covers" - and to be fair, the most important ingredient in LIKE AUTHOR might be "throw THE MOON AND THE MELODIES in a blender and hit puree" but if you try this metaphor at home you will most certainly get inferior results because there is a crucial proprietary blend of intimacy and je ne sais quoi that is JOHNSTON's alone