Album of the Week: Midwife | Luminol

Midwife is San Miguel, New Mexico-based multi-instrumentalist Madeline Johnston and Luminol is her new record, released on San Francisco’s The Frenser last month.

I was thinking about the band Low, listening to songs from their new record, and Roon suggested I might also enjoy Midwife. And Roon was right.

Johnston, who is also part of Sister Grotto, calls Midwife’s music “Heaven Metal”. While I don’t typically find genre’s very telling, this one I’ll keep.

Luminol is a chemical used by forensic investigators to reveal trace amounts of blood left at a crime scene. When it reacts with blood, luminol emits a chemiluminescent blue glow that can be seen in a darkened room. In the same way this chemical reveals evidence at a scene, Midwife is interested in profound truth – turning trial and tribulation into sources of light.

Luminol navigates themes of incarceration, locus of control, clarity, self harm, confinement, agency, and truth-seeking, all erupting in a bioluminescent Rothko color-field of blue.

I’ll hang onto that, too, while navigating the calm deep waters of Luminol.

The Luminol album cover shows a dark figure standing at the edge of a body of water. It symbolizes the way humanity had been on a precipice throughout 2020, to later find out they had been there all along. Being one of Midwife’s most personal records, Luminol’s cover artwork is a picture of Madeline Johnston’s mother taken in the 1980’s, when she was the same age as Madeline at the time of recording. By redacting the figure, Johnston hopes that anyone could see themselves there, by the water, as a form leftover when all the elements of their lives are stripped away and what is left is a host.

With all that said, there’s a beautiful light that shines through Luminol, like a life raft appearing on the horizon just out of reach. Johnston is joined by Tucker Theodore, Angel Diaz (Vyva Melinkolya), Zachary Cole Smith, Ben Newman and Colin Caulfield (DIIV), and Dan Barrett (Have A Nice Life) who help build this wondrous guitar-laden sound world.

Dive in and don’t come up for air until its over.