What is Lo-Fi?

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What is Lo-Fi?

Post by logancircle » Tue May 27, 2008 10:23 am

I've heard people say the following are lofi:

Iron & Wine (the 1st one)
My Bloody Valentine
Beck
Velvet Underground
Panda Bear
Sebadoh
Magnetic Fields

I am just wondering if Lo-fi has taken a turn? I know what I think it is, but I'm looking for yalls thoughts. Does lots of tape distortion mean lofi, but lots of guitar distortion doesn't? Distortion and smash on the drum room mic? White noise samples instead of crash cymbals?...
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Post by Weasel9992 » Tue May 27, 2008 11:30 am

It used to mean low resolution, grainy, poorly recorded crap, but if Beck is "lo-fi" maybe I've missed the boat somewhere.

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Post by ashcat_lt » Tue May 27, 2008 11:34 am

Azalia Snail IS Lo-Fi.

As far as I can tell, it's a matter of recording everything with whatever crap equipment you can get your hands on and whether or not you know how to use it.

I wouldn't put MBV in there (though some of their earliest stuff is pretty nasty). Beck's early stuff, before he had a budget. He used to hang out with the Snail before the whole Mellow Gold thing happened. Look also for Truman's Water, Supreme Dicks, Sportsguitar, the New Bad Things, anything on Union Pole...

Most of what I know of lo-fi comes from back in the mid-90s when it was all basically cassette dupes and the occasional 7".

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Post by vvv » Tue May 27, 2008 11:37 am

Think late '80's, early-mid '90s;

Sebadoh,
Grifters,
The Bevis Frond,
East River Pipe,
early Dinosaur, Jr.,
etc.


Beck played with some elements of lo-fi, ex., bad compression, distortion (esp. on vocals and drums), basically stuff that sounds like it was recorded, not too skillfully, on like an old 1/4" 8-track. His early recordings, and some of his indie stuff, might even "qualify" ...

(All of the above is IMO.)
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Post by curtiswyant » Tue May 27, 2008 11:40 am

Most of the bands I've seen that call themselves "lo-fi" can't play their instruments and are too lazy to make a good quality recording. On the other hand, I would call some of my favorite bands like Olivia Tremor Control or Neutral Milk Hotel "lo-fi." Their songs are made up of unconventional or intentionally-crappy sounds, but it results in a wonderful soundscape and really sounds great when used and mixed properly.

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Post by Spoonie » Tue May 27, 2008 12:15 pm

The Fall are the definition of lo-fi no actually just awful recording, check out totally wired for a great example of a "where the fuck was the engineer" moment

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Post by logancircle » Tue May 27, 2008 12:25 pm

So it's stuff that sounds poorly-recorded. I guess poorly-recorded is the real topic here, then. Not capturing sounds adequately, but good enough to sing along. I know bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre have made most of their stuff lo-fi, but probably only because they didn't know how to record themselves better. SO...

In the summer in DC there's a guy who plays electric guitar and sings over an old drum machine and he's great. His vocals, guitar and beats are all coming out of this crappy 10" solid state crap amp. But everything sounds great. The vocals and beats are not overdriving the amp, the guitar sounds pretty good. Is this lo-fi, even though he knows how to play around his gear's weaknesses? Maybe lo-fi is not knowing how to play around the weaknesses of your equipment... It gets tricky here, because his scenario is lo-fi, but the sound isn't. And it's live.
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Post by logancircle » Tue May 27, 2008 12:33 pm

PS. I really do like the soupy spring reverb poorly-EQ'd BJM records--some of the songs are awesome--but I really love Give It Back, the one they did by scamming some studio time at a place where people knew how to place mics, etc, etc.

Are those old old Robert Johnson's recordings lo-fi? I would say yes. Does that mean we're moving in a linear path from low-tech to hi-tech? Not really. When I hear vocal plosives on a record I think lo-fi, but some rappers like to eat the U87, too...
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Post by thieves » Tue May 27, 2008 2:57 pm

i'd say that 'lo-fi' means anything that is below the standards for the highest quality audio given the time period it was made. this would mean that very old recordings aren't lo-fi simply because they have more hiss/noise than new ones, but panda bear's "person pitch" would be considered lo-fi because it is considerably muddier than say, coldplay... but deals with similar aesthetics (lots of reverb, etc).

or perhaps i'm completely off point.
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Post by ;ivlunsdystf » Tue May 27, 2008 3:01 pm

thieves wrote:i'd say that 'lo-fi' means anything that is below the standards for the highest quality audio given the time period it was made. this would mean that very old recordings aren't lo-fi simply because they have more hiss/noise than new ones, but panda bear's "person pitch" would be considered lo-fi because it is considerably muddier than say, coldplay... but deals with similar aesthetics (lots of reverb, etc).

or perhaps i'm completely off point.
No, that's as good a definition as I have seen.

Now let us define 'no-fi'

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Post by logancircle » Tue May 27, 2008 3:17 pm

thieves wrote:i'd say that 'lo-fi' means anything that is below the standards for the highest quality audio given the time period it was made. this would mean that very old recordings aren't lo-fi simply because they have more hiss/noise than new ones, but panda bear's "person pitch" would be considered lo-fi because it is considerably muddier than say, coldplay... but deals with similar aesthetics (lots of reverb, etc).

or perhaps i'm completely off point.
Well I would NOT think of Person Pitch as lo-fi. It's got these rich reverbs and colorful textures and lots of good-sounding sounds on it. It's something I throw in to test stereos, to see how "deep" they are. Bud muddiness helps make something lo-fi... Now we're getting somewhere! Tracks that sound awesome but arty and not whisker-twirlingly shiny or radio-ready are lo-fi if they lack the very expensive definition that's common to lots of radionet-drool.
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Post by Jess Ashes » Tue May 27, 2008 3:48 pm

lofi...hm.

i wouldn't call old ass recordings done straight to cylinders/discs lofi, though sonically they are. I'm listening to one such recording right now, the fidelity is terrible, though perfectly fitting and charming in the context and not "lofi" as we know the term. Before hifi, there was no lofi.

when the consumer, or more specifically non proffessionals became able to get their hands on some kind of recording equipment, lo-fi came about. There term probably came about because initially that equipment was inferior (no longer the case) and the techniques are often ill-informed (again, mostly thanks to the proliferation of knowledge and the internet, less common than it once was).

Stuff can sound lo-fi if you have it professionally captured..but in that case i wouldn't call it truly lo-fi. I also wouldn't say lo-fi is about being lazy...yes some lo-fi bands are musicianship wise pretty ass (beat happening etc) but you can't call calvin johnson lazy. There's often ideals behind that stuff...a conscious choice to be shitty or not to care that you are not musically adept.. (punk rock anyone?)

Some of the stuff that falls into the category is sonically excellent..like later Magnetic Fields, but is still lo-fi essentially (the album "I" sounds very hifi, though pretty scooped, but it was all done in whathisfaces house on a small selection of gear..minimalist to a degree).

the one thing it all seems to have in common is a rejection of "professional" standards on some level for whatever reason, whether it be taking the recording process into your own hands or putting it in the hands of a pro with different ideas of how things should sound. Or maybe its with regards to musicianship, or the instruments you use. almost always, tho, the word Lo-fi can be replaced with DIY.

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Post by rwc » Tue May 27, 2008 3:58 pm

Modern bruce springsteen

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Post by junomat » Tue May 27, 2008 8:00 pm

I can't believe no one mentioned Guided By Voices...

Bee Thousand is a good start...

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Post by I'm Painting Again » Wed May 28, 2008 5:53 am

fidelity(standard audio/video definition) = the degree of accuracy with which sound or images are recorded or reproduced.

lo-fi has become something of a recording style with the home recording revolution and artists that took advantage and or embraced the sound quality of budget gear and limited but creative engineering by means of hoards of copycats who thought those records beautiful sounding..

so in that sense lo-fi has taken a turn..

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