It's quickly becoming apparent that Italian producer DJ Tennis (a.k.a. Manfredi Romani) is a big Ninja Tune fan. Earlier this year, the soundtracker, label owner, and moody musicmaker debuted on his own Life and Death imprint with "Make It Good," a cut that should more appropriately be referred to as a remix, given its heavy borrowing from indie-folk vocalist and Ninja Tune artist Fink's track of the same name. Now releasing on Kompakt, Romani has looped up the celestial strings that open Cinematic Orchestra's "Evolution" and repurposed them to set the tone for "The Outcast."
From Life and Death's conception, Romani and his label partner Greg Oreck (of New York techno duo Thugfucker) have put forth that it was their intention to revive old sounds and give them new life. Fans of Romani's most recent sample choices will surely warm to the way they've been recontextualized. On "The Outcast," Cinematic Orchestra has been wrapped snugly in a warm psychedelic house fold with dapper trio PillowTalk channeling the musical heritage of its native San Francisco on the track's vocal refrains. Singing—although it almost sounds like choral chanting—of lakes of fire, being the chosen ones, and a new day, the threesome could have time traveled straight out of the summer of love with its folksy, flower-power sentiment. With little more than handclaps and a shaker to propel PillowTalk along, "The Outcast" is a sparse track. The Hot Creations-esque, electro-funk bass is the tune's beefiest element, but rather than lending a retro '80s vibe, it recalls the spacey textures of Daniele Baldelli, Tennis' fellow countryman and cosmic-disco purveyor.
Working together with Oreck, Romani also turns in a "Life and Death dark mix," which takes "The Outcast" into ever-so-slightly more sci-fi terrain. An eerie synth line, embedded deep in the mix, replaces the Cinematic Orchestra sample—at least initially—and a mellow house beat is pushed to the fore. PillowTalk's vocals remain a prominent element as jazzy guitar riffs, rimshot chatter, and the slow return of the string section signal more of a variation on a theme than an outright remix. While none of the mixes included here are, strictly speaking, dancefloor burners, this take is the first nudge in that direction.
The second comes from Metro Area's Morgan Geist. The more party friendly of the two, Geist's rerub is also the more inclusive, welcoming additional bongos, vintage electro drum-machine hits, and a gurgly organ line that recreates the cut's quintessential sample. He also chops up the boys from the Bay Area, providing an option for DJs looking for a mostly vocal-less version, as he only sparingly peppers the song with the occasional "yep" and the echo of "survive." Loaded with charm, it's fuller than its predecessors, yet retains the less-is-more philosophy that Geist shares with the Life and Death principals. Sitting comfortably alongside compatriots Tale of Us and the kindred spirits from Visionquest, not to mention Geist, DJ Tennis' mantra is clearly one of melodics and meditation. He doesn't want to strike you over the head; he'd rather make hypnotic numbers that sink in slowly. "The Outcast," in all its variations, does exactly that.