Review: Midwife – Like Author, Like Daughter

For fans of Beach House, Grouper and Duster, Like Author, Like Daughter is the latest release from shoegaze artist Midwife, a.k.a. Madeline Johnston. She has previously recorded under the pseudonym ‘Sister Grotto’ to release albums such as 2016’s You Don’t Have to Be a House to Be Haunted. LA, LD sees Johnston team up with Tucker Theodore to produce this intimate, drone-fuelled album. The LP is released by Whited Sepulchre Records on June 16th alongside a split cassette with Planning for Burial, and is not to be missed.

LA, LD’s release follows Johnston’s eviction from Denver DIY venue ‘Rhinoceropolis’, and the album feels largely to be a response to this, from the abandoned mattress featured in the artwork, to the themes of pain and dislocation which permeate the tracks, with Johnston describing the album as ‘a portrait of that time living in Rhino in a tiny room and getting hurt by other people’. The album is characterised throughout by Johnston’s ethereal and obscured layered vocals sporadically breaking through thick layers of distorted guitar, leaving just a few lines intelligible. Instead of detracting from the meaning of the tracks, the infrequent decipherable lines take on an added poignancy, making Johnston sound both distant, buried behind a fog of distortion, and intimately near in the honesty of her lyrics.

This poignancy is audible right from the album’s opener, ‘Song for an Unborn Sun’ which immediately envelops the listener in a haze of distorted guitar, Johnston’s repeated haunting line ‘why can’t you see me?’ acting as one of the only moments of clarity. The following more ambient tracks, ‘Reason’ and ‘RTD’ (parts one and two) come at a less overpowering volume, with Johnston appearing in whispered, cloudy vocals, or in the case of ‘RTD Pt. 1’ not at all, offering a breather from the intensity of the opening track for both Johnston and the listener, although these softer tracks are not without their own power.

After the subdued melancholy and chaotic hopelessness of the first portion of the album, track 7, ‘Way Out’, feels a more positive and defiant turning-point in the album, and one of LA, LD’s highlights. Dissonant layered guitar loops and amplified, delayed vocals build in volume throughout the track, alongside an increased tempo punctuated by the inclusion of a steady drum beat, which together give the track a feeling of more direction and hopefulness than the previous ambient, ethereal tracks. Similarly, the album’s single, ‘Liar’, continues this empowered tone, coming in at an almost overwhelming intensity with crashing distorted guitars and a more resilient edge to Johnston’s reverberating vocals as she repeats “I know your name“; a line which previously took on a much more mournful and hushed quality in ‘Reason’.

This 9-track release is a triumph for Midwife. LA, LD transitions wave-like between sombre, emotive softness and defiant, destructive, yet delicate intensity, and will captivate you from beginning to end as Johnston takes you on what feels to be a very personal emotional journey.

Bethan Ryder

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