Madeline Johnston and Angel Diaz make music at the intersection of beauty and sorrow. In Johnston’s pensive, minimalist work as Midwife, she finds moments of soul-stirring radiance amid thick clouds of synth and guitar. As the leader of Louisville’s Vyva Melinkolya, Diaz plumbs emotional depths in a somewhat more conventional interpretation of classic shoegaze. Both Johnston and Diaz are adept at conjuring heaviness without reaching for metal’s typical volume. (Johnston characterizes her music with the amusing and accurate descriptor “heaven metal.”) On their first collaborative album, Orbweaving, the two songwriters tap into an easy compatibility when exploring their common ground, and they touch the transcendent when they push beyond it.

Orbweaving is the result of a recording residency that Diaz undertook at Johnston’s New Mexico studio in August 2021, but the two didn’t enter the sessions as strangers. Diaz had recently contributed guest vocals to a song on Midwife’s Luminol, and a friendship that began in music soon transcended it. Diaz and Johnston became confidants during a tumultuous period in each of their personal lives. Orbweaving, recorded between nighttime hikes spent looking for snakes and spiders, feels accordingly intimate. It’s the sound of two kindred spirits in harmony, reaching for catharsis in unison.

The first four of Orbweaving’s five songs sound like what you might expect from their team-up. The Johnston-penned “Miss America” opens with a plaintive clean guitar part, which repeats for the song’s duration while both singers layer gauzy, reverb-heavy vocals on top of it. “Hounds of Heaven,” Johnston’s other songwriting contribution, offers a little more crunch and a more elaborately detailed arrangement, with pitch-shifted vocals and glitchy, programmed drums augmenting all the guitar fuzz. Both tracks are built on repetition, with a scant handful of mantra-like lyrics and melodies. It’s an approach similar to Johnston’s on Luminol, gaining power from the insistent recurrence of small ideas.

The Diaz compositions “NMP” and “Plague X” are similar to Johnston’s songs at first blush, but they signal Orbweaving’s grander ambitions. “NMP” blooms from the same kind of guitar line as “Miss America,” even introducing its diaphanous vocal part in an almost identical way. Over the course of its nearly eight-minute runtime, the song builds to the album’s showiest crescendo, swelling and crashing before resolving in a muted denouement. “NMP” makes the most explicit use of Diaz’s shoegaze background, but it also introduces the album’s strangest sounds—twisting synths, gnarled feedback, hissing drums. The quieter “Plague X” puts synthesizers on equal footing with guitar, letting them fuse into a single gloomy alloy. (Diaz and Johnston’s vocals melt together in a similar manner throughout the album.)

Orbweaving saves its biggest swing for last. The 12-minute title track closes the album in a fog of blurry, crumbling synths. There’s no percussion, no vocals, and only the faintest hint of melody. It’s by far the most challenging song on Orbweaving, but it’s also the most rewarding. By abandoning the familiar textures of rock music and stripping the core of their sound, Johnston and Diaz created a piece that’s at once more impressionistic than their usual work while every bit as emotionally vivid. Orbweaving is the product of two musicians with similar sensibilities, but just as instructively, it’s the sound of two friends sharing a glimpse of their bond with the world.