I met Ryan Hall of Whited Sepulchre Records this most recent January. Hall and I had more than a few mutual friends, which is fairly common after you’re lurking in the musical underground for a handful of years. In addition to WS Records, Hall also operates the long-running experimental podcast Tome to the Weather Machine, and asked if I’d sit down for an interview. Could not have been a better experience – we talked through growing up with extreme religion, sobriety, Marilyn Manson. You can hear all that at this link. I played downtown Cincinnati bar MOTR with Human Program and my recent friend John Bender.
Hall and I began trading emails and texts shortly after. I became more familiar with his label, and decided to stock up on Whited Sepulchre Titles. The first record I listened to from the catalog was Midwife’s Like Author, Like Daughter, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. For those of you unfamiliar with the American Damage tape releases, much of it is experimental but melodic – take Chelsea Bridge’s Jo or Autumn Casey’s This Is No Dream. Midwife is the drone-pop solo project of Madeline Johnston, combining minimal, evocative acoustic orchestration – guitar, piano, etc – with her gentle sighing voice. The obvious sonic comparisons here are with Liz Harris’ work as Grouper, Julia Holter, but the lyrics in Midwife are more personal, more cathartic. “Your God hates me/he can’t feel my flesh/he leaves me panting like a dog/at the edge of your bed,” she incants on the second track “Name,” paraphrasing/referencing/reworking a Thalia Zedek song.
There is a deep, perpetual melancholy throughout Like Author, Like Daughter, and it drenches every plucked guitar string. Perhaps the most insidious part of the album is that it’s also so goddamn memorable. Johnston’s mastery of repetition and melodic hooks makes for songs that are sure to roll around your cranium for days. Few artists can wield a sadness so catchy.