Dawn Golden, a solo electronic production and songwriting project helmed by Dexter Tortoriello of Houses, officially started in late 2010 when a series of Bandcamp demos caught Diplo’s attention with their stark emotion and forward-thinking production.
Quickly signed to Mad Decent and Downtown Records, Dawn Golden (formerly Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross) released its first EP, Blow, in April 2011. The effort, which featured standouts like “Blacks” and “White Sun,” garnered critical acclaim from NPR and Pitchfork.
Post-Blow, the Los Angeles-based Tortoriello started recording albums for both Dawn Golden and Houses, releasing Houses’ A Quiet Darkness in May 2013. During this period, he continued working on the songs for what would become Dawn Golden’s debut LP.
Entitled Still Life, the album was recorded over the last three years at the Mad Decent studios in Los Angeles. “I was sharing a studio with Diplo” says Tortoriello. “It brought me out of my own bubble. He would show up fresh off a plane from Brazil with an idea, and in ten minutes I’d go from writing my own songs into working with him on a beat he was about to give to Katy Perry. I learned so much by being in that studio for the past couple years.”
Still Life is built around stream-of-conscious craft that explores the doleful voids of addiction, love, and death. “It’s an excavation of my past.” the now-clean Tortoriello says. “I’m far enough away from the reality of these stories now to write with perspective. It’s like putting them behind museum glass. They’re no longer mine anymore.”
Led by its first single “All I Want,” Still Life gains its stark emotional perspective through some of the most unique production you’re likely to hear this year. There’s heavy exploration of sonic texture, and Tortoriello uses frozen cut-ups and creative vocal editing to flip a traditionally-futuristic sound into something that oozes feeling. “I wanted the record to sound sterile and futuristic, while at the same time pounding the entirety of suburban decay through a megaphone. Like if American Beauty was set in the Tron world.” he says.