Midwife turns loss into atmospheric dream pop on Forever | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Midwife turns loss into atmospheric dream pop on Forever



In December 2016, a fire ripped through Oakland arts space Ghost Ship, killing 36 residents and guests who were attending an underground electronic show. As the tragedy was picked up by mainstream media, misinformation and misrepresentation of DIY artists and venues resulted in a backlash felt across the country. Shortly after the fire, the Denver music community was hit hard when arts hub Rhinoceropolis was shut down without warning, displacing its occupants to face the high rents and gentrification that already threatened the city’s creative scene. Among them were multi-instrumentalist Madeline Johnston, who makes slow-burning dream pop as Midwife, and her close friend Colin Ward. A little more than a year later, Ward took his own life, and Midwife’s new second album, Forever, is dedicated to his memory. Over the mournful, atmospheric guitar of opening track “2018,” Johnston conjures the surreal feelings that can come when tragedy strikes hard and fast. The fuzzed-out, hook-driven “Anyone Can Play Guitar” and “S.W.I.M.” wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack of a 90s indie flick, but underneath their relaxed, summery vibes, they’re both poignant confessionals about inner struggle and saying goodbye. “C.R.F.W.” starts with several minutes of spoken-word poetry recorded by Ward, after which Johnston emerges with a shimmering, ambient instrumental. Everyone is missing someone, and plenty of us are grieving—and those personal voids can feel even more overwhelming during these times of physical isolation. So while Forever focuses on one community and a special relationship between two friends, its intimate revelations can resonate with anyone.   v

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