After a fair amount of time monitoring LN-CC's seriously obscure music collection in the digital realm, we knew we needed to meet the people behind such a curious inventory. So we traveled to East London's Dalston neighborhood, rang the buzzer of an unassuming door and went down a long set of stairs in order to enter the slightly labyrinthian structure that is the Gary Card-designed LN-CC concept shop. Dan Mitchell was there to greet us, and the hour we spent chatting in the store's music section was an eye-opening experience. Mitchell's knowledge runs deep, with a passion only mellowed by his insouciant personality.
The LN-CC co-founder has now left London for the Indonesian island of Bali (which Mitchell tells us "has a very rich musical history") and has set up a new record label called Island of The Gods. The imprint's first release is a double A-side single from Zsou (formerly Mountain of One), which was recorded in the jungles of North Java and comes in a limited edition box beautifully handcrafted by local Indonesian artisans.
We checked in with Mitchell to glean more insight on the new label, Balinese music and his long friendship with Zsou duo Mo Morris and Merrick Adams. Have a peek at "Admiral Byrd / Admiral Dub" in this trippy teaser video created by London-based Illustrator and video artist Stevie Anderson, and pick up the record online.
You've named the record label after Bali's nickname, which is where you're also based. How are the sounds you're producing a reflection of the region?
Bali’s is a spiritual and magical place. Music is deeply embedded into everyday culture here. The old world sounds of Gamelan, Gong, Chants and Bamboo instruments which were all born here, have always fascinated me every since if first visited Bali eight years ago.
I would hear this music whenever I visited Indonesia and it has a voodoo trance like qualities and such a magical sound. It gave me lots of ideas of what we could do with it, fusing it with our modern musical output. Many of the players here are 80+ years old. So the idea of working with these highly talented, yet unknown, unrecognized musicians and putting them on a record that will be available worldwide feels like a great thing to do.
How would you describe traditional Indonesian music?
The music of Bali can be very trance-like, hypnotic, voodoo and exotic. The sound of gamelan can move around from subtly and softness to chaotically and everything in between. It’s a magical sound that embodies the spirit of exotic island life here in Bali or anywhere in Indonesia. There are also many variations of bamboo instruments, which are beautiful. Fusing these organic sounds, and players with our more electronic output is proving to be very interesting.
When and how did you come across Mo and Merrick in the jungles of Java?
I heard that Mo and Merrick were working on some ZSOU material and I was visiting Indonesia at that time. I’ve always been a fan of A Mountain Of One and Merrick is one of the best musicians I have ever met, so I knew they would be doing something very interesting.
They travelled to the jungles of Java to record vocals of Javanese spiritual sinden singer, Sinda Laras. Of course I'm not going to say no to a trek into tropical paradise! And the partnership of ZSOU and Island of the Gods began.
LN-CC hosted a few mezcal-fueled, mystical jam sessions last year. What draws you to such a hedonistic/voodoo type of vibe when it comes to music?
I guess I’m just interested in listening and making music that transports me to a certain place and that kind of sound really gets me there. I'm also a fascinated by the gong instrument for its deep healing properties. Playing and listening to gongs is about spiritual, physical and emotional resolution, this opens doors to the universe, moving around energies to enter a spiritual dimension. Really powerful stuff. [Read more about Spirit Bear Mezcal Ensemble.]
It seems like you treat releases as entire artistic projects. Was creating Island of the Gods a way of ensuring all aspects of a record are considered, from cover art to production?
I always put a lot of love into any project that I do, and it’s always an honest expression that means something to me.
Starting Island of the Gods was a very natural thing for me to do. I am now living in Bali, which has a very rich musical history. Fantastic old world musicians, and exotic sounds surround me here on the island. Also through working in music over the past 12 years, I have surrounded myself in some fantastic producers from all over the world. So putting these two elements together just seems like a great thing to do.
I always put a lot of love into any project that I do, and it’s always an honest expression that means something to me. So naturally I approach every aspect of it with as much detail and love as possible.
Is running a record label anything like running a concept shop?
I approach all my projects in the same way. But with the record label is much smaller than LN-CC. LN-CC was a huge project. I was doing the art direction, men’s buying, product design, musical direction and many other things. I am still doing the same things on the label, but on a much smaller scale. Although I have plans to morph the IOTG imprint into a venue/space, which you could describe as a very refined version of LN-CC, based more around island life. I will reveal more on that later in the year.
You're also planning to release a set of Balinese field recordings; what's the wildest sound you captured?
Yes I am. We have just gathered some fantastic jungle and bamboo sounds recorded over here, which will be getting used on the next IOTG release from Black Merlin, who is based in London. Black Merlin has had releases on LN-CC recordings, as well as Andrew Weatheralls ‘Bird scarer’ amongst others. Driving Hypnotic dance floor music of the highest order.
Images courtesy of Island of The Gods