Dance music is a world consisting of a multitude of elements, combining to form the scene we know and love. Dancers, DJ’s, producers, promoters, agents, venues and labels all co-exist to create a world outside of reality. With out each element it would be hard to see how dance music could exist. With out dancers there would be no DJs. Without labels we would lack music. As part of a new bi-weekly series we attempt to dissect a selection of labels that have contributed to underground music. Kicking things off with DJ Tennis’ imprint, Life and Death.

Life and Death

Back in 2010, Tennis aka Manfredi Romano decided it was time to start a label in response to the state of the scenes wider musical output. Alongside Thugfucker’s, Greg Oreck a new techno and pop label was born. After some discussion it was settled that the imprint should be named Life and Death for its double meaning. Firstly, it is inspired by the Socratic maieutic process to turn subtle and “dead” elements into a new life. Secondly it takes influence from the hypnotic power of music used in the mesmeric processes for brain therapy.

In its early days the label was ran by Tennis and Greg Oreck with the help of techno duo Tale Of Us. The sole purpose, to curate soulful dance music with a post-rock aesthetic. Tennis made it clear the only rule with Life And Death was that the output had to fall under the dance music bracket. In other words experimentation was encouraged. Genre crossing music was welcome and boundaries were to be pushed, as long as it was dance music.

The first release on the label came from Thugfucker and was quickly followed in 2011 by EPs from Pillowtalk, dOP and Who Made Who. As the label started gathering momentum and a reputation it was not until 2015 that things really took off. With Tale Of Us, Thugfucker and DJ Tennis Life and Death headed to Ibiza. They had teamed up with the islands coolest venue, DC-10 for a residency across five dates. At the time success in Ibiza almost guaranteed global dominance and that is what the group of friends found.

However things change and for the past two years Tennis has been running the label by himself. In part due to a fracture with Tale Of Us and Afterlife. In an interview with T-Mobile last year Tennis said, “It kind of went naturally that way. It hasn’t really been discussed. We had different opinions on musical evolution. I wanted to be evolving and changing all the time. Staying more underground, and Tale of Us wanted to do their thing. Greg (Thugfucker) and I opted for different musical paths and the scission felt natural.”

These evolutions don’t appear to have hindered the label, in fact quite the opposite. This year Life and Death has announced it will team up with pioneering European festival Sónar. Who will deliver a multi-room event at Brooklyn’s Avant Gardner featuring dance music’s elite DJs. On the release front, DJ Nobu joins Midland, Vatican Shadow, Ninos Du Brasil, Uchi Scuba for the second ‘Displaced Soundtracks’ compilation out on 25th January. To follow this up Tennis has promised a string of releases, making 2019 another exciting chapter in the labels evolution.

9 years ago, it appears Tennis had an ability to see into the future and named the label fittingly. Life and Death has changed dramatically over the years. Each chapter has ended allowing the birth of the next stage of the label. However, this evolution is something Tennis is extremely proud of. “In my experience, diversity and trying to evolve is just. I prefer it, just because it’s more challenging and more interesting to explore new things all the time. In a way, I’d prefer to keep generating. I like to do something that maybe disappoints someone but surprises someone else.”

Life and Death has an intriguing lack of rigidity in its releases. No two tracks are the same and the style is diverse. This though is what makes it attractive to its loyal fans. It’s willingness to ignore fads has given it an enchanting allure across the globe as it attracts a more seasoned, committed type of listener that enjoys the deeper artistry of its sound. In our eyes the future is bright for the label and 2019 will be another year that only cements its position as a world class imprint influencing the wider dance music world.