Chances are, if you’ve found the songs I’ve chosen to share on this blog even remotely tolerable, you are aware of what ‘lo-fi’ music sounds like and what the whole idea of the genre denotes and I need not attempt to explain it to you. It is my belief that you either enjoy lo-fi music or you think it’s stupid and how could anyone listen to this ham radio BULLSHIT?! To some, all potential merit of the song - how it was written, performed, the lyrics, the emotion - is immediately discarded when this quality is present.
I consider myself an admirer of a myriad of bands that have been identified as such (GbV, Urinals, Dinosaur Jr., etc.), but the muddled fidelity isn’t a contributing factor to my feelings of adoration, in fact, it doesn’t affect it whatsoever.
I’m sure you’ve been in the situation where you’re about to watch a movie with some friends and everyone’s looking forward to it until one guy gets all perturbed because the movie has subtitles. “Ugh! I don’t want to have to read while watching a movie.” or “Having to read subtitles just kinda takes me out of whole thing, you know?”. Maybe you’re that guy. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It can seem like having to direct your sight to the bottom of the screen in order to simply understand what’s happening will be difficult and you won’t be able to rightfully kick back and let the movie read to you.
If you have thought this, then you’re also aware that your brain just gets used to it within, say, less than 30 seconds; it goes on a sort of autopilot and the conscious effort of reading seems to fade without even being noticed. I feel the same goes for music. If everyone who instantly discounted a song for its sonic quality would take the time and let themselves become immersed in it, which simply takes a few effortless seconds of sitting there and not doing anything but listening, they would almost immediately hear past the confines of technical quality. Similar to working with white balance and colour correction, the context of whatever you were hearing or seeing beforehand is erased and whatever you are experiencing now becomes the default.
Astrobrite is an American shoegaze group that bestowed upon the 1990s a scattering of cassettes and a couple of 7”s and CDs. They released their first full-length LP, Crush, in 2001 - almost 10 years after the band had formed. Crush is screeching, scintillating, tonally raucous but meditative and lush; it pushes the limits of lo-fi like few others. Crush, aptly named, is warm and seductive, and singer, Scott Cortez, flirts with adolescent timidity. The album makes My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything sound as if it’s been Rick Rubinized, but the throbbing tenderness of the music simply doesn’t allow room for criticism toward something as superficial as the method in which it was preserved.
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