- "Man achieves his tallest measure of serenity when surrounded by beauty," industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss once said. It's as true for what we listen to as it is for what we see and touch. By that measure, Manfredi Romano's contribution to the long-running DJ-Kicks series is hugely successful. That's no surprise, as the artist, AKA DJ Tennis, is one of clubland's go-to guys when it comes to moody and meditative atmosphere. Though the Life And Death cofounder's selections may not rival a view of, say, the Grand Canyon or the Cézanne wing of your local art museum, DJ-Kicks has a hushed elegance that's innately alluring.
The first disc focuses on graceful mood pieces, with pulsing rhythms occasionally punctuating the reverie. The evocative minimalism of Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Aurora" delicately emerges from the crystalline grandeur of Bochum Welt's "La Nuit," while Bauri's appropriately named "Twinkle Stars" blinks its way into the glassy percolation of Rival Consoles' "Recovery." Melodies occasionally ooze towards new age sentimentality, but the patiently unfolding mix, heavy on selections from the more amiable ends of ambient and IDM, generally keeps any potential treacle factor in check.
The second disc can be thought of as the dance floor set. But even with the near-constant presence of a 4/4 pulse, it would be a stretch to call it peak-time club music. Opening with the hypnotic tremble of Basic Channel's "Q-Loop," the session slowly winds its way through placid house and techno. Romano's own mix of Frank Bretschneider's "Go! Said The Bird" has the feel of a hazy twilight at summer's end. Robert Hood's "Escapes," from his 2002 album, Point Blank, is one of the Detroit artist's more muted tracks, with soft synths spiralling around syncopated chords and a jazzy Rhodes riff. Even the tougher tracks aren't exactly gut-punchers. The low-end throb of Red Axes' "Paratrooper," for example, has a hint of swagger, but its stuttered ululations and fine-cut filigree convey an aura of fragility.
Romano's always had a knack for transitions, a talent he displays throughout both discs. The blends are unhurried, sometimes barely noticeable. Tracks stack atop each other in ways that feel natural, unforced. He can make connections that others might miss, like when the foggy dub of Rhythm & Sound's "Mango Drive" slides into the bouncing bassline of "Perché Non Vuoi Ballare?," by Marcello Giordani (the man behind the Italo Deviance blog and label), or when the loping, bittersweet electro pop of The Other People Place's "Let Me Be Me" eases into the swoons of Biosphere's "Ikata-1."
These are gorgeous moments in a release that's swimming in them. But there's a downside to all this refined radiance. Except for a handful of moments—the live-wire crackle of Jon Hopkins' "Vessel," or the dreamland disco of Kenny Dixon Jr.'s "January" (listed here as "Soul Sounds")—both mixes can easily glide by in a narcotic haze. A bit of abrasion here or a sharp thematic turn there would've enhanced the mix's quiet ebb and flow. It's a seductive installment to the DJ-Kicks series, but one that could have used a bit more gritAnd
01. K. Leimer - Acquiescence
02. Bochum Welt - La Nuit
03. Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Aurora
04. Jon Hopkins - Vessel
05. Adam Johnson - Anex
06. Pole - Raum 2 (DJ Tennis Technoid Version)
07. Monolake - Pio
08. Byetone - Neuschnee
09. Mouse On Mars & Atom TM - Key My Brain
10. Bauri - Twinkle Stars
11. Rival Consoles - Recovery
12. Oval - Textuell
13. Isolée - Allowance
14. Caribou - Melody Day (Four Tet Remix feat. Luke Lalonde, Adem and One Little Plane)
15. D'Arcangelo - N-Tower
01. Basic Channel - Q-Loop
02. Frank Bretschneider - Go! Said The Bird (Tennis Version)
03. Red Axes - Paratrooper
04. Traumprinz - Intrinity
05. Robert Hood - Escapes
06. Kenny Dixon Jr. - Soul Sounds
07. Rhythm & Sound - Mango Drive
08. Marcello Giordani - Perché Non Vuoi Ballare?
09. The Other People Place - Let Me Be Me
10. Biosphere - Ikata-1
11. Roby J - Crossed Movements (LOM Extended Version)
12. MBG - Jumping Trip
13. Loscil - Sickbay
14. Maribou State - The Clown feat. Pedestrian (Axel Boman Remix)
15. DJ Tennis - Certain Angles feat. Fink (DJ-Kicks)
16. Kona Triangle - Astorias Ascent