At the start of 2017, in a particularly bleak January, Denver-based artist Madeline Johnston — who records drone-pop music as Midwife and Sister Grotto — released a video for the song “Name.” Its first minute is silent. A guitar is tied to the back of a pickup truck with an amplifier switched on in its bed. A phrasing of chords begin; the truck pulls the guitar across pavement and down dirt roads, disrupting the debris of a solemn Midwest stretch. Johnston’s voice obscures in the mix, nearly clipping the audio as it rises into shouted refrains including the defiant “I’m not at home.”
Simple and devastating; the blunt image communicates anger, grief, and resilience. I keep returning to it. Johnston’s album Like Author, Like Daughter is said to represent her final days as a resident of Denver DIY venue Rhinoceropolis, which closed during the politically motivated assaults on creative spaces ushered in with the country’s new administration. In this context, “Name” aches as an anthem for cultural displacement, an ode to the expanding void.
Like Author, Like Daughter is out on Whited Sepulchre. Johnston made S&S a mix of her own material; entirely unreleased save for one track (the last), featuring collaborations with Tucker Theodore of Inanambulance Recordings and Allen Karpinski of The Six Parts Seven. Like her album, these thirty minutes are heavy and beautiful. Episode 58 is lucky to host them in the top half.
The show’s bottom half is lighter, flipping to a few favorites as of late: Olympia dream-pop group CCFX (DFA), Vancouver producer Yu Su’s latest ambient jazz cut via New York label Arcane, a highlight from Lee Noble’s new tape of synthesizer suites (Pale Blue), and one of ten transcendent piano studies from the hands of Billy Cigarette. Additional visual references, below.
Part One: Madeline Johnston’s set
Midwife – Already Gone
Tucker Theodore – Placeholder
Midwife – Runner
Allen Karpinski & Tucker Theodore – My Reasons
Sister Grotto & Tucker Theodore – I Don’t Want To Love
Part Two: Freeform
CCFX – The One to Wait
An Luu – Pourquoi Tu Me Fous Plus Des Coups
Dip In The Pool – Transit
Yu Su – I’ll Say When I Can
Lee Noble – Elektra
I Am Just A Pupil – Algorithm
Marcus Fischer – 170211 – Dual Deck Piano Loop RRR
Billy Cigarette – Ecstasy