While some might find phenomena such as the night or the sight of barren lands forlorn and foreboding, there’s still a sense of wonder to them that, in the least of cases, sparks curiosity. Connecting stars with your fingers and using them as a guide for your trekking, or observing the nocturnal floras and faunas enacting their routinary endeavors – there’s always something of value even amongst the unknown. The origin behind Orbweaving, the debut collaborative release between New Mexico native Madeline Johnston (Midwife) and Louisville shoegazer Angel Diaz (Vyva Melinkolya) suppose a similar scenario, as both artists band together and find inspiration in the arid roads of Las Cruces to craft a captivating record that seeks to find purpose midst the uncertainties that bring hopelessness, isolation, and longing.
Orbweaving is a carefully-handled tapestry that enables power to the subtle and the nuanced. Of course, this is something that can already be found in Midwife‘s self-branded heaven metal catalogue and Vyva Melinkolya‘s swirling collection of tracks. With this record, however, the sonic richness is bountiful to the point where you realize that a pairing such as this one is simply a no-brainer. This doesn’t take long to sit in with you as soon as the opening track “Miss America” lulls you into its wistful guitar motif. Embellishments of subdued wailing synths dance around the trademark reverb-drenched vocals to concoct a ruminative song whose refrain tells the tale of loneliness whilst having it all in the palm of your hands:
‘I’m Miss America
I’m Miss World
I’m all alone
There’s no place like home‘
Both artists lock into these wistful reveries and commit to serve the moods that arise out of them in a manner that does not feel in the least overwhelming, while still letting out what’s needed to let out. It’s a feat that I find works so well in tandem with the restrained heaviness conveyed in each track. The shoegazing cut “Hounds of Heaven” lays out its hypnotic mantra ‘the hounds of heaven run like hell‘ as it accompanies the synthetic percussion underlining the gorgeous arrangement between swirling guitar distortions and haunting melodies provided by the keys. In a similar vein, “Plague X” speaks of the dichotomy of being confined from an otherwise malicious world spearheaded by premium slowcore balladry that fans of Grouper will surely get a kick out of.
The songs mentioned so far end at the three or four-minute mark, which is a feat in and of itself considering the substance that each of them hold in spite of the minimalist approach both artists have taken for the entirety of this project. Still, it is through their lengthier cuts (two in total) where Orbweaving ultimately pays off. A testament to patience as a craft, both tracks expand towards musical avenues that sink you in without hesitation, truly letting you savor in both the emotional and textural intricacies aplenty.
Easing its way in with mournful yet heavy-hitting clean guitar lines, “NMP” gradually reaches towards the pinnacle of what one might expect to encounter with upon hearing of such a collaboration effort. Strokes of warping synths and sharp feedback sway smoothly on a landscape of bitter distortion and a backdrop of celestial keys that make the song seem larger than life. Its demeanor feels grandiose not in the sense of that of an epic voyage, but rather in the way catharsis leads way to a newfound clarity, as evidenced on the track’s hopeful prose and especially on the title track – a sonic conclusion to the album where both artists conjure the euphoria of release through twelve minutes of delicate but equally powerful droning soundscapes.
Orbweaving is an exercise in coming to terms with an ever-spiraling reality while having the self-awareness of being entangled in it. As such, this is not necessarily an auditory exhibition of defeat but of sheer expression and the sense of acceptance that flourishes out of it. The emotions laid throughout may seem heavy at various instances, but that’s what makes this album so honest, relevant and, consequently, fulfilling. Additionally, what Midwife and Vyva Melinkolya have presented here speak volumes not only of the proficiency in their respective songwriting stylings, but also of the seamless chemistry explicitly present in each track. It is without question, then, that this is a clash of talents whose effort is more than deserving of your attention.
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