Review: Dawnwalker ‘House Of Sand’

In all the time I’ve been reviewing albums, there have only been a couple of times where the initial promo I’ve listened to, doesn’t fully warn me about the ensuing complete experience. Mostly, based on one track, I get enough of a sense of the artist, to gauge what the probable outcome for the rest of the body of work will be.

Dawnwalker 'House Of Sand'

Sometimes, every track feels similar, they can become indistinguishable making you step back and take it all at face value. At other times, a single track is only the very tip of a much bigger iceberg, and the full content will be so varied and textured, that it’s impossible to classify it in any one genre, or sound. Well, Dawnwalker falls into that latter category.

As a collective, the band themselves seems to be in a state of fluctuation, where beyond the main components, musicians come and go as is necessary. The main protagonist though, the master behind the ideas, is one Mark Norgate, who assumes guitar and vocal duties, alongside all of the other roles he manages as the main creator.

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing the collective’s latest offering, House Of Sand, which will be released imminently through their own imprint Room 132. It’s the fifth full length for the band and sees them as inspired as ever.

Over the fourteen tracks, it’s hard to pin down any specific genre, or other artists to which the band sound akin to. Yes, there are whole segments of chunky post-rock indulgence, but as quick as they arrive, they are instantly redirected down a different path, and across any given track, the pace, pitch, and tone can change, multiple times. Interlaced with a couple of more ambient instrumental offerings, there are tracks such as False Doors, where this is particularly true.

The aforementioned False Doors is also one of my personal favourites, covering everything from harmonies and anxieties to intensely deep, pulsing passages. I draw a parallel with the band Straylight Run during several moments, but not so much in sound, more so in scope. Calmer vocal harmonies, followed by breakdowns in pace, before returning with chaos and intensity, it makes for a hard listen at times. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s the point I imagine.

there’s no specific artist or sound you can definitively point at for comparison. Dawnwalker are Dawnwalker…

Tracks such as House Of Sand and R.I.P. fully embrace a more eclectic shoegaze sensibility, where an old school indie feel is also present. I note specifically, that the title track, House Of Sand, has a ‘shoegaze meets crooning’ peculiarness. It’s an interesting addition to the album, even if it goes somewhat ‘Chris Issak’ for a little bit.

One thing that is noticeable over the course of the whole album are the monologue pieces. Unsure if they tie together somehow, catching several of them really makes for uneasy listening. It gives it a very ‘British’ feel and reminds me of the kind of things which get spoken about regularly, in houses, behind closed doors. It gives an eccentricity to it all and definitely sets the album apart from anything else I’ve heard recently.

Another high point for me is the track Coming Forth By Day. Even from its opening seconds, it’s instantly heavier than most of the album. Its mix of doomy bass, over intense drumming, and wailing guitar certainly does up the ferocity level. This piece is more lavish, and the mix of singing, growling, and rumbling bass, is an absolute joy to behold.

Throughout the entire album, Dawnwalker are constantly throwing elements into the mix, one minute you are embedded with incredible intensity, on tracks such as House Of Sand II, to then be transported by a string section in the mix, on tracks such as Standing Stones. As I’ve said earlier, there’s no specific artist or sound you can definitively point at for comparison. Dawnwalker are Dawnwalker.

At times it’s an uneasy ride, while at others, it’s like being swept away on an ambient breeze. It’s quite a unique experience, and I’m sure will be polarising for a lot of its audience. Some of it I really loved, and some of it left me a little apprehensive, but it was thoroughly engaging none the less. It has made me want to explore earlier releases, so it must have left an impression, that’s for sure.

Label: Room 132
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish