The Benchwarmer: Lo-fi vs. Hi-fi

Is music all in how it's produced? Given the idea that today's pop music sounds crispy and freshly made out of the oven (not in terms of lyrical content, though that's up for another discussion), it seems as if a lot of music is produced at a louder bit rate, a cranked bass or treble, and the recording quality is just overall clearer. At least I've noticed this kind of quality listening to music that comes from big-name record companies like Capitol, Interscope, Atlantic, and the like, but what about all of those artists who've yet to sign and are struggling to find their voice? They can gather up enough money to thankfully record one EP or LP out of their garage using basic equipment and the quality is very "lo-fi" and not nearly as clear, but hey, it's still music, right?


I ask, now, about the intention of this sound. You may want to consider the types of artists that work out of their garages or work very independently. These artists that record and mix lo-fi like Ariel Pink have made a career out of creating albums that sound muffled and rigid and raw, and they are directly affected by what the lyrics imply or the music bellows. This kind of quality doesn't beg for clarity, but in fact begs for us to find a richer and more natural connection to the artist rather than layering compression or transformations to make that connection clearer. Of course it's great for us to be able to have clarity to listen in, but the effect of not being able to listen is Pink's mantra, giving an eerie sensibility to pay closer attention to the sounds you're either not hearing or not paying attention to.

So if I'm listening to an artist whose lyrics are intended to be deep or purveying, shouldn't it be more appropriate to record it in a lo-fi setting? Do you think having that sonicular clarity really matters to listen to the music, such as those recording hi-fi? Think about it.


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