With a face emotionless staring into this void of daunting production, the simplicity of Midwife is what makes Forever seem impossible to breach. Particularly with the introduction of “2018,” there is enough of a lingering hell without ever touching a microphone. With barebones levels to the production, Midwife gives a desolate stage for Johnston to stand upon.
“2018” and most of the work present on Forever is immaculately gentle to the first appearances. Instrumentally, Midwife is approachable but there is immediately this intuition that something is inherently wrong. This notion becomes tucked in the lyrics which are delivered through soft and often whispered tones.
As Johnston illustrates, “This is really happening, this is really happening, this is really happening to me. Get the fuck away from me, get the fuck away from me, Get the fuck away from me.” Appearing almost as a one-member army of performance, Johnston recruits some additional instrumentation with Tucker Theodore, Randall Taylor, Jensen Keller, and Caden Marches to fill in these gaps with large markers of noise.
One-piece immediately shakes into the soul as “Vow” spends more time being the mourning after burial than any uplift of performance. With no instrumentation besides a piano that sluggishly collides within itself; “Vow” is the most simple but in the same instance, the most devastating.
Bleak tones coincide within the higher pitch keys, a rush of shadows fill the room and suddenly memories sculpt themselves within the darkness. As Midwife pushes further into this tormented but graceful display, it’s nearly impossible not to break into a miniature framework
While the majority of Forever is spent in complete and bitter isolation within oneself, “S.W.I.M.” adds melody to these crashing waves of impending doom. The sun appears briefly with more upbeat grasps on the strings and percussion.
Johnston is less based on being somber and more based in some areas of motion for a welcome change. Describing, “I don’t want to swim forever, treading water my whole life. You know I can’t swim forever, I don’t want to fight the tide.”
The strumming increases in frequency and Johnston uses this to force vocals into the frame. They continue on, “I don’t want to live forever, paranoid for my whole life. I don’t want to live forever, you had a gun, I only had a knife.”
While the moments of clarity appear at the end of the record, Midwife on Forever is a justification of self-recording immolation. The hands that were once adorned with gold and silver emerge from the mire cracked, beaten, and impossible to ignore.