When one thinks of spider webs, many people will often think of a nuisance, i.e. the phrase “cleaning out the cobwebs.” Many others will often associate them with set decorations for a haunted house or horror movie, something to inspire fear and dread. But every web you see is the home that a living creature has made for itself, a microcosmic world happening right under your nose. If we think of these webs as a community unto themselves, would we be able to see ourselves in the tiny creatures that made them? Orbweaving could be thought of both as the act of creating these almost invisible ties that bind worlds together, as well as the result of the community those ties hold together via the vision of Midwife and Vyva Melinkolya.
Brought together by a mutual respect for one another’s art, New Mexico’s Madeline Johnston (Midwife) and Kentucky’s Angel Diaz (Vyva Melinkolya) forged a close bond in spite of the physical distance between them, and that bond became ever stronger during the 2020 pandemic. When the two were finally able to meet face-to-face, their collective energies were focused into Orbweaving, which sees Midwife’s sparse, droning ambient guitar and vocals (Heaven Metal, to the uninitiated) meet Vyva Melinkolya’s marching, hazy shoegaze in a positive feedback loop that takes each style of music to new heights. “Miss America” is classic Midwife, returning to a Like Author, Like Daughter sparseness that is augmented by Angel Diaz’s additional vocals, while “Hounds of Heaven” is Vyva Melinkolya’s showcase, with Madeline’s guitar and vocal harmonies adding an additional wash of beauty over the already affecting mix. It is the album’s centerpiece “NMP” and following track “Plague X,” however, which easily are the songs that show what these two artists can do best together. “NMP” is a glorious wash of vocal harmony and droning guitar work that explodes midway through into noisy crescendo, while “Plague X” straddles the line between ambience and structure, driven by percussive guitar rhythms and given breath by hazy vocals. The album concludes with its massive, sprawling ambient title track, evoking the sparse beauty of the Chihuahuan desert it was recorded in.
Orbweaving shows the genius of two artists playing off of each others strengths to create something more than the sum of its parts. The whole album is a triumph musically and artistically, showcasing not only some of the most inventive music I have heard this year, but also standing as a testament to the power of friendship, human perseverance, and of finding community. It is easily among my favorite albums I have heard in 2023, and one that I have come back to find comfort in since I first got my hands on it.
Orbweaving is available now on cassette, LP, and digitally through The Flenser. For more information on both Midwife and Vyva Melinkolya, check out the artists’ Facebook pages.