Danger Island is the debut solo album from singer-songwriter MOLE. An expansive double album of 21 tracks, it has been more than five years in the making, and will be released on 17 August 2018, on the Figs of London label, distributed by Cargo UK.
The album includes a stack of new songs, as well as a handful of older songs that never got a fair shake in the studio. Replete with rich, intricate string and brass arrangements, tuned percussion, and an array of beautifully understated guest performances, Danger Island is a kaleidoscopic jumble of experiments, fantasies and miniature symphonies. It is conceived as a proper, old-school double album, in the mould of The White Album, Tusk or London Calling – broad in scope and tone, colourful, ambitious, immersive.
MOLE is the solo project of Californian-born singer, songwriter and visual artist J. Maizlish Mole. For the last twenty years, he has been based in London, New York and Berlin, playing in dive bars, speakeasies, concert halls and every conceivable kind of venue with his various bands. He has been releasing solo work as MOLE since 2015’s Tar Baby EP.
He began initial work on Danger Island in 2012, the first sessions being recorded by Brian O’Shaughnessy (Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, The Clientele) at Bark Studios in Walthamstow. The project soon moved on to rehearsal rooms and makeshift studios, much of it put together on the go in Mole’s short-let flats all over London and back in the United States. Undeterred by circumstance, Mole and co-producer Dorian McFarland ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to finish the album at the end of 2014, labouring away on it for a further three years. Along the way, MOLE has released three EPs – Tar Baby (2015), The Grand Tour (2016), and Black Eggs (2017). The album was mixed and mastered by Ben Standage (of Down I Go fame), at his farmhouse studio in rural Illinois.
A lot of brilliant people contributed to Danger Island, including just about everyone from MOLE’s previous bands, Marseille Figs and The Jupiter Band. Its roster of guests includes people from Field Music, Pumarosa, The Rails, The Pretenders, Cinematic Orchestra, Gallon Drunk, Down I Go, The Pogues, Rum Buffalo, Fine Print, Small Hours and Kidnap Alice. It also features extensive contributions from pianist Louis Vause (Madness, Graham Coxon) and double bass legend John Edwards.
The breadth and scope of Danger Island make it nearly impossible to nutshell. Perhaps best described by saxophonist Pete Fraser as ‘glammy folk-rock’, its range of reference points touches everything from Girl Groups, Power-Pop and Punk to Al Green, Carl Orff and Charles Mingus. There are string quartets, tablas, french horns, fuzz guitars and glockenspiels. The blithe ‘I Love London’, with Vause’s lush, George Martin-esque arrangement, addresses the slow ravaging of the city with a defiant message of unabashed love. Later in the album, the bare-naked gtr/voc piece ‘Sick Old River’ uses the cold indifference of a long-time lover to revisit the singer’s dysfunctional relationship with the city. There are sunshiney pop tunes; folk-form ballads; a honky, churchy, big band number; a Hammond-heavy tone-poem built around a line from Beat poet Kenneth Patchen; and, in the opening track, a dirty, distorted boogaloo that channels both T.Rex and Uncle Remus.
Danger Island is being released in a deluxe double LP edition, in a gatefold sleeve with lyrics booklet and download card included, as well as a single CD edition in a six-panel digifile.