On the second day of Art Basel, the scene became slightly more hazy with another edition of Life and Death at the Little River Studio compound.
For those who aren’t familiar with Life and Death, it is an Italian electronic record label founded by Manfredi Romano (DJ Tennis).. However, Life and Death is not for the faint of heart. The label is not about 2-cent “show me the money” drops or lovey-dovey lyrics; Life and Death is an exploration of the self through rhythm. The sound is of its own and relies heavily on melodic elements, which, to the layman, will not come across as dance or club-friendly, but I can assure you it works in both philosophy and action.
The lineup was stacked with artists from the likes of DJ Tennis, Damian Lazarus, RadioSlave, HVOB, a Miami debut from the German DJ Rødhåd, and many more. The layout at Little Radio Studio housed different kiosks, four stages (Main-Room, Wizardy, Santornini, and The Grove), all of which were decorated with disco balls, artificial skeletons of pigeons and goats skulls, and some Christmas lights. Who doesn’t love the holidays? The colorful cabins housed VIP tents and every nook and cranny was riddled with antique bird-cages, lighting, and more synthetic goat skulls and pigeon skeletons. Little River Studio created an atmosphere of weirdness that blended music and art.
Now if I said this once, I said it a thousand times; the Life and Death sound is extremely difficult to pull off at a show. The melodic and ethereal harmonies will often turn bombastic and get lost in translation somewhere between the speaker and the ear. You need the right location, technology, and sound engineer to make it work. The Little River rooms were outside. It was rainy, barbarically hot, and had humidity that felt like a grimy Turkish bathhouse. And yet, the sound quality was downright decent. Sure, there were moments of harmonic dissonance and askew dynamics. But the ear could still catch the hi-hats as they clicked like someone on the brink of insanity, the acid-melting cymbals, and tingling bass that blended every loop and sample as it flew into the ether.
The theme of Life and Death is progression; whether it is just one track, an EP, or a show. It takes time to unravel into something bohemian and enlightening. When the event started, you had a more laid-back techno sound that started with Tijana T in the Main Room and progressed throughout the night. The man of the hour, Rødhåd, made use of lost time and met everyone’s expectations starting with a gentle intro but then continuing into deep and dark techno, his fingers constantly on the mixer and his jubilant red beard grooving. Rekids founder, Radioslave closed the main-room and brought the perfect balance with his mixing, controlling the highs and not bombarding the concrete room with bass. Wizardry, a room conjoined to the main room, juxtaposed with a more gentle, melodic sound that was perfect to keep the crowd going as the clock rounded 7 a.m. Wizardry was closed out by the trio of Damian Lazarus, DJ Tennis, and Three AKA Wizardry. All three are respected in their own right so combining them was a sight to behold and hear.
The true MVP weren’t the artists, production teams, or even Life and Death. The true MVP were the crowd. I have never seen a more colorful and extroverted crowd that was digging the sound. There were no egos or neon-colored clothing or 305 snapbacks, in fact, the theme was black, and a lot of it: black collarless shirts and v-necks that drooped to the border of inappropriate. The crowd were of all different races, genders, sexual orientation, and creeds all sharing their passion for the underground and looking out for one another; all while doing the lethargic two-step in a room that was constantly shifting colors. The lights poured out a special shade of aqua blue that showed the sagging eyes, collarbones, and beads of sensual sweat that dripped from everyone in the oven that was the main-room.
Life and Death is expanding exponentially and has won the hearts and minds of the Miami dance scene. The symbolism of the record label perfectly blends with the ideas of Art Basel and makes a great show for the week long event. The production crews: Life and Death, Pl0T, and More-or-Less did an excellent job organizing the show with the conditions that they were faced with like the rain and an unexpected larger audience. Albeit, some fans would have helped immensely. Nonetheless, it was another successful year of the Life and Death Basel edition and the self was in fact discovered through tingling bass and insatiable rhythm.