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June 6, 2018
Culture

Isle of Jura: The pursuit of unfound sounds

By night, Adelaide deejay Kevin Griffiths soothes bar patrons throughout the city, but by day, as the founder of record label Isle of Jura, he uncovers and makes available a world of music that would otherwise stay forgotten.

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  • Story: Johnny von Einem

Vinyl is an addiction, or so says Adelaide deejay, and founder of record labels Tsuba Records and Isle of Jura, Kevin Griffiths.

The UK import has spent the last four years in Adelaide, where he deejays three nights a week in venues across the city – including Udaberri on a Thursday night, where CityMag briefly disrupts his set.

Remarks

Jura Soundsystem presents Transmission One is out now through Isle of Jura and is available for digital download or vinyl purchase via Bandcamp.

Kevin’s career started in England, where he worked for Amato, a vinyl distributor, as head of label management, honing the skills that he now uses to unearth and disseminate rare, out-of-print, or never-before-etched-onto-vinyl releases.

By day, Kevin scours the internet for music that fits the Isle of Jura remit – “It’s quite Balearic, it’s usually got a little bit of an edge to it,” he says – and once found, so begins the process of bringing his discovery into the public sphere.

“Predominantly, the music is ‘70s and ‘80s, so it’s tracking down the original rights holders, and they’re generally quite old… You’re more a detective than anything else,” he says.

“To try and find these people can take months. They’re not on social media. Quite often I write letters, send records, find relatives of the people, and then eventually you kind of find a way.

“Then the next hurdle is, do they want to do it? Because sometimes they don’t – I’ve had a couple of knockbacks… Do they have a master? That’s the next component, which quite often they don’t, actually, so then you need to source a record that might be a $500 record.”

Kevin chases these recordings partly in the name of uncovering gems for a like-minded community of discerning audiophiles, but mostly, it’s about the thrill.

Kevin Griffiths.

“One of my recent releases was a cassette that was released in 1990; they made 100 tapes and they gave it out to their friends and a couple of stores, and that was it,” Kevin says.

“I managed to track, firstly, the tape down, then them, and it’s like a new act, really, because it’s music that’s never been heard before.

“So something like that just excites me on every single level, because the music fits with what I’m about, it’s very obscure, hard to get, so that’s what you want, that kind of stuff. But you need to dig very deep to find those kind of things.”

Isle of Jura has recently released its first compilation album, Jura Soundsystem presents Transmission One, which is the first of a series of releases in the works, and blends Kevin’s detective work with some of his own tracks, made under the name Jura Soundsystem.

“I’ve got a number of other projects using that name, so it needed to represent what I’m about as a deejay,” he says.

“So consequently there’s an ambient thing on there, there’s a dub thing on there, there’s a disco thing, a proto-house thing, so it needed to reflect my perspective as an artist as well.”

The scope of Isle of Jura will broaden beyond reissues too, with Temples of Jura, a sub-label dedicated to contemporary artists and new music.

Kevin says his move to Adelaide in 2014, and the deejay community he found here, has been instrumental in setting his artistic direction, and underscores the identity of Isle of Jura.

“Adelaide’s really vinyl-orientated, which is great, actually,” he says.

“The kind of deejays that play here and play similar gigs to me, they’ve got really broad tastes in music, and that’s something that I really wanted to incorporate into the new label, and also my way of deejaying.

“I think that’s a real Adelaide thing, actually, with the bar deejays, they’re able to go through many genres and for it to make sense.”

On this Thursday night, as we sit amongst the Udaberri barflies escaping the winter with a glass of wine, a plate of patatas bravas and Kevin’s set, we can see the Adelaide love goes both ways.

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