The Golden Dawn Arkestra is a critically lauded collective of musicians and dancers who summon deep grooves and cinematic textures through the use of horns, percussion, synths, vibes, and theremin. Their sound is a blend of afro-rock, psych, and disco, and their sensational live performances are known for shimmering garments, intricately designed headdresses, and burning sage.
On October 11th, the Austin, Texas-based group will release their third full length album—Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time—via 11A Records. As its title suggests, the album explores the apocalypse and existential emergency we now find ourselves living through. As always, Golden Dawn Arkestra continue their meditation on the eternal now, but Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time sees the band delving deeper into poetry and lyrical content, bringing forth a new confidence and clarity to their message: as you travel to the edge of time, let the sonic vibrations heal your soul.
Today Glide is excited to offer an exclusive early listen of “Hamza”, a song that bandleader Zapot Mgaw says “grew out of a swirling 6/8 riff into an homage to Hamza El Din, the North African oud player who had a strong influence on my musical upbringing. My stepfather actually played oud and studied with Hamza.” Kicking off with spooky organ, the song almost feels like it could be the soundtrack of a spy movie but there are also more psychedelic factors at play. Trippy and hypnotic vocal harmonies are complemented by a funky, rock and roll background that feels like an otherworldly cross between the Black Keys and the Budos Band. Compared to other Golden Dawn tunes, “Hamza” is a slowburner that is less about getting you to dance and more about taking you into space on a dark and groovy ride.
Listen to the tune and read our chat with bandleader Zapot Mgawi below…
How has the band’s sound evolved since its inception?
Well I feel like we have gone a little further in the electro funk and disco direction, but we’ve also been digging deeper into the psychedelic rock world.
You’ve said that the new album explores an impending apocalypse. If you look around today it isn’t hard to come to the conclusion that such a thing might be real. Were you conscious of this going into this album, and is there a silver lining or optimistic angle to it?
Yes, we were conscious of this concept going into the album. Absolutely there is a silver lining; after we destroy this world we can begin again with less people! (I’m joking). Or do you mean a silver lining to the album’s message? If so, yes that too. We speak just as much of how music will save you and how transcending time and becoming one with “the now” releases you to a higher consciousness.
How did the writing work for the band – who comes up with the words?
Sometimes we come in with a finished product or sometimes we jam together and brainstorm. Me, Greg Rhoades, and Rob Kidd did most of the writing on this one and it happened pretty fast and organically, and Anthony Farrell got involved and brought some input. I write the lyrical content for the most part.
Talk about the process of the band building a song together in the studio.
In the studio – because there are so many of us – we have to do the rhythm section first. We always do this to tape. Then we transfer to the computer and bring in the horns and vocals etc… it would be amazing to one day have a budget to record everything together at once!
The music you create seems otherworldly, almost science fiction-esque, yet you have a song called “Allo Allo Boom” inspired by texting while driving. What is Golden Dawn’s connection with the real world?
We come from a different dimension, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with current Earthship realities such as texting and social media. However, on that song I am speaking to the humanoids. It is a message to them to wake the fuck up. The world is ending while you’re talking on your phone!
On that song, the connections to the Talking Heads are obvious, but can you talk about some of the other acts or albums that inspired this collection of songs?
Absolutely Talking Heads on that song, also a little Klaus Johann Grobe. I realized this summer that nothing makes me happier than German disco. There are definitely afro-rock influences such as Colomach and Witch, too. And some Kamasi Washington influences… it’s all over the map as usual.
Anthony Farrel of Greyhounds produced the album, which is interesting because he is very much a soul and blues guy. How did this come about and what did he bring to the table creatively for the band?
So he actually wrote a song for us – sorry I forgot to mention that earlier – and then it just developed from that. He wrote “Blood of Royalty,” and we have just been friends and been jamming together for ages. His partner Andrew Trube has a studio with Sam Patlove that they opened not long ago, and I just dug the vibe and thought it would be a great fit.
You have done small bits of touring here and there. Are there challenges to touring with such a large band and are there plans for a full national tour with this album?
The main challenge with a large band is financial, to be honest, because the income is split into smaller increments, and you have to pay for more plane tickets and hotel rooms, etc. But we will be doing an Austin release show and a New York City release show!
You have lots of European tour dates. Does the band have a large following over there?
We do! Also, the European promoters book bands based on the quality of music. In the States they seem more interested in the numbers.
Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time is out October 11th and the band plans to play two release shows:
Photo credit: Daniel Patlan