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Dawning : Dawning

Californian solo project Dawning offer a short but quite sweet example of raw, largely instrumental "live in the studio" jamming.

Steve Cefala could perhaps best be described, without a trace of irony, as "interesting". We've spoken in the past, at greatest length in this interview, over one of his many other projects, No God Only Pain, and if you'd like more insight into why I'd use the term, or want to look more deeply into the person behind largely solo band Dawning, I'd recommend a read of his Facebook page. That side of things isn't really reviewing territory to explore, though it undoubtedly feeds into - and shapes - the resultant music.

In any case, there's enough convolution simply within the objective history of Californian band Dawning - like many independent, underground bands dating back to the largely pre-internet '90s it's all rather hit or miss as to detail and verifiability. However, they did produce a couple of self-released demos in 1995 and 1997, tracks from which cropped up on both a vinyl split with anonymous Swedish Black Metaller(s?) - - - in 2013 and a self-released compilation ('Mount Um + 1997 Demo') in 2016, with band line-ups that varied from solo to duo to quartet, all broadly drawing on a blackened Doom vibe with mystic overtones, and a sometime sideways slide into faster, Thorns Of The Carrion-ish keys. It's a little difficult to even pigeonhole 2021's self-titled release as being a direct descendent of those works, in some respects, being - as it is - a stripped-back mainly bass'n'drum, almost exclusively instrumental, solo venture.

If you're actually looking for continuity, I think you can find it within the melodic and tempo contrasts, healthy bass lines, the raw production, and the occasional return to older values, such as the rasping voice and reedy keys on highlight track 'Take Me To The Starz' - or maybe in the left-field use of whistling as the vocal line on 'Passion'. If you want distinct progress, well, I think the best description I could give is that it sounds very much like 21st century old-school - still firmly anchored in that lo-fi, lo-res atmosphere, but at the same time louder, clearer, more differentiated than the original recordings of that '90s era could manage technologically. And I'd also add that, more than any previous Dawning works, it sits a lot more comfortably in a definable slow'n'low Stoner-y Doom framework, something vaguely along the lines of a less-tortuous Grief.

Running to a little over 25 minutes, this series of more narrative and personal vignettes doesn't always feel like it has true album-level coherency, more that it tries to encompass a variety of different, and sometimes playful, ideas that might be more suited to labelling as an EP. But it's certainly on the borderline where either description would be fair, and - whichever seems more appropriate - it does undeniably build from a comparatively sparse, almost idly jamming, start into a more complete package of compositions in the second half. Obviously that's all relative, and it never quite loses the artifacts of rough'n'ready engineering that crop up - amplifier hum, say, or bursts of audible fretwork - at any point, so the overall experience is pretty much a "live in the studio" one. I don't have a problem with that, but it's not necessarily something that translates into a massively wider appeal: in that sense, and with its idiosyncratic sweep of material, it's almost the epitome of "if you like this sort of thing, you should enjoy it".

Fortunately for me, I do like that sort of thing, although not without some reservations - probably exemplified here by the overlong, unexceptional territory of second track 'Lunar Aurora' - which always seems on the verge of going somewhere, but never quite gets there. Once past that point, though, it's all uphill, in a way that somehow reminds me of Stig .C. Miller's fairly recent post-Amebix series of solo laconic and cynically world-weary singles. It's difficult to give any kind of unequivocal recommendation just on that basis, however, for all that it's also a comparatively easy-listening introduction to Steve's long-standing involvement in the world of extreme Metal.

Nonetheless - and I'm going to quote Steve verbatim here: "I can win more money on bowling, horseraces, or stocks or just about anything than in music. Music is a black swan - like swinging for the fence. It's a bit of a long-shot. So it must logically only be done for art, or as a small long-shot growth investment..." - well, as a demonstration of art for the love of art, I can only approve of the way 'Dawning' certainly fits neatly into that bracket, as a true underground project. It may not be the best, or the most immediately appealing, example of what lurks, generally unheralded, out there, but it's something that very much reflects the raw and moody spirit of the scene. On those grounds, I'd have to suggest it's at least worth checking out, and seeing where a contemporary 21st century 'bedroom jam' can take you.

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Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
1. Battle Of Odin
2. Lunar Aurora
3. Charity's Solitude
4. Passion
5. Hope
6. Take Me To The Starz

Duration : Approx. 25 minutes

Visit the Dawning bandpage.

Reviewed on 2021-06-05 by Mike Liassides
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