(Whited Sepulchre, 2017)
Madeline Johnston is visiting us in 2017 under a new name. Instead of Sister Grotto, we’ll get the first Midwife album, currently untitled, sometime in the near future on Whited Sepulchre. Until then, we’ve got the teaser for the album, a video of sorts for “Name,” one of the most amazingly gorgeous pieces of music you’re likely to hear today or any other day. Over sparse guitar hovers Johnston’s heavily treated voice, seemingly piped in from another plane of existence. Everybody’s going (appropriately) crazy over Grouper’s new 7-inch on which appears “I’m Clean Now,” but “Name” rivals it in sheer, flat-out desperate beauty. Juxtaposed expertly against the video art project “Guitar Drag” by Christian Marclay, the music plays as an auditory counterpoint to the physical violence visited upon the titular guitar, which is connected to an amplifier secured to a pickup truck and dragged through country environments. (I would love to hear the outcome of that experiment.) The song itself, along with the album that will follow, is a love letter of sorts to Rhinoceropolis in Denver, a DIY music venue shut down on December 8, 2016, in a kneejerk response to the tragedy that happened at the Ghost Ship in Oakland. Johnston is a member of this Denver community. If – and it’s not a stretch to think that this will be true – the inaugural Midwife album retains the highs of “Name” throughout the rest of its runtime, we’re in for an insane treat. Not only will we be buoyed to fresh highs by Johnston’s self-styled “heaven metal” and “soft gaze,” but maybe we’ll also be guided to do something in support of local art spaces. Or drag guitars behind our pickup trucks and record and manipulate the results. Either way, it’s a good place to be. As you wait for the inevitable grandeur of Midwife, remind yourself of how I’ve felt about a couple Sister Grotto releases: Blindside on Heavy Mess and Born to Lose / Born to Leave on Antiquated Future, the latter a collaboration with kindred spirit Braeyden Jae.