Lo-fi

From Academic Kids

Lo-fi from "Low Fidelity" describes a sound recording which contains accidental artifacts, like distortion, or environmental noise, or a recording which has a limited frequency response. This stands in contrast to high fidelity or "hi-fi".

In digital audio lo-fi usually refers to an audio file with a lower bit rate, and thus a lower sound quality.

In some cases high fidelity recording is avoided, or the artifacts are deliberately retained or added to all or part of the recording for artistic reasons. This decision is usually made by the record producer. Some argue certain unique aural qualities are available only with "low-tech" recording means.

Examples of lo-fi include recordings of vinyl crackles on compact discs, as on Portishead's album Dummy, and telephonic vocals on Craig David's track "Fill Me In".

Lo-fi music

Lo-fi music is a musical genre which uses lo-fi recording practices. The aim is to sound authentic, rather than over-produced. Many lo-fi artists use inexpensive cassette tape recorders for their music.

Lo-fi music arguably dates back to the Beatles or Buddy Holly (Holly recorded some songs in a converted garage). As a genre, lo-fi is mainly associated with recordings from the 1980s onwards, when cassette technology such as Tascam's four-track Portastudio became widely available. Prime early exponents included Daniel Johnston, Beat Happening and the label K Records, and the New Zealand music scene around the Tall Dwarfs and Flying Nun Records. Lo-fi found a wider audience with the success of Sebadoh, Pavement, and Elliott Smith.

Often lo-fi artists will record on old or poor recording equipment, sometimes out of financial neccessity but mainly due to the unique aural qualities available from the technologies. Many artists associated with the lo-fi movement, such as Bill Callahan or Bob Log III, have frequently rejected the use of finer recording equipment, trying to keep their sound raw instead, whereas others such as Guided By Voices and The Mountain Goats slowly moved to using professional studios.

Lo-fi techniques are espoused by some genres outside the indie rock rock world, particularly by Black metal artists, where the very low-quality of the recording has become almost a desirable quality, said by fans to convey a rawness and depth of feeling otherwise unattainable. Some fans deliberately seek out extremely lo-fi concert bootlegs, such as the infamous Dawn of the Black Hearts, which are of such low quality as to defy normal conceptions of music.

DIY Punk is also well noted for its trend toward lo-fi sound, produced for the most part on inexpensive four-track machines such as the Tascam, and copied from tape to tape on home recording equipment, degrading the quality still further. In DIY Punk lo-fi is prized mainly because it indicates a rejection of the values of commercialism.

See also: Cassette culture, Indie rock, Lo-fi bands

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