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I think that most music today tends to move too fast, and I think a lot of people like that. Feeling a bit more bitter when a minor song plays then immediately moving to a place that’s more positive if things become major. But I also think that for a lot of us, sometimes we don’t want to be moved so much, and that’s when low fidelity also known as lo-fi music comes into play.
The world in many ways moves too fast, go anywhere online and information is constantly flowing towards you and a lot of it happens to be bullshit, but we’re okay with that. As long as there are tweets coming at, comments on our Instagram pictures, responses on our Discord we’re secure and being socially surrounded and there’s no difference on the Billboard’s “The Hot 100” music chart. All the music is surrounded and jam-packed with changes in tone, changes in style, changes that evoke changes in feelings and everyone that’s listening. Clearly there’s a reason for that, it’s what people want. It wouldn’t be so popular if it wasn’t, but as I said earlier; people don’t want this all the time. I think its necessary in any situation for people to have contrast, its the only way we can find a balanced median.
So in a world that’s hot with movement, I think a lot of people seek a contrast that’s chill with stillness, something that’s not so moody and changing, something that’s grounded and repetitive. I think we can find that in lo-fi hip pop, I know that’s because its really easy to make and most Soundcloud artists loop the sample over and over and the repetitive comes out of laziness. But the repetition generates a certain aesthetic, one that coats the ears and surrounds them. A lot of that comes from the type of artists the lo-fi producer samples. For example, in J Dilla’s The Look of Love, it samples jazz guitarist Barney Kessel’s song of the same name, but Dilla in producing his own version of the song selected only one of the smoothest samples of it.
What jazz artist, Herbie Hancock misquoting Miles Davis would call, “Butter notes? Butter might mean fat, and fat might mean obvious where there’s no tension, no noise just smooth butter.” I think people might be quick to think to say these producers sample songs like this because they sound good and no shit, of course they are, no one is sampling screaming, well some people are but their music isn’t very good. But I don’t think that’s the reason why, there’s been a bit of a tradition in lo-fi’s precursor jazz rap where the producer would usually sample from American or Cuban jazz artists. And one of the first people to break that tradition is Japanese producer, Nujabes who sampled Japanese pianist like Noriko Kosei. In doing so he tilted jazz rap towards what lo-fi today sounds like because Japanese jazz is a lot smoother than Western jazz. For example, comparing John Coltrane’s version of I want to Talk About You to Ryo Fukui’s version.
Guess which version got sampled by lo-fi artist Knxwlegde in 2014? Ryo Fukui’s version. It really is an in the moment sampling of an in the moment sound because jazz isn’t bound to the strict rule of classical composition and is typically improvised on by each artist on a moment to moment bases. The resulting buttery and graceful set of notes is transformed in lo-fi to repeat and drown out everything around you as it caresses and consoles the listeners. Other ambient music doesn’t do this, which is why when people compare lo-fi to ambient I don’t think its a fair comparison though, admittedly why lo-fi can keep you in the moment so well is because of the ambient sounds it uses. In a sense, it makes the music a bit of a parody of itself.
It’s aware that it’s using decade-old samples and putting them on a beat, adding a bit of vinyl scratch or walkman hum ties it all together. It makes the music tactile in a way because it’s almost as though in a sense you’re listening to that old buttery recording not someones’ sample of it. You’re listening to the best part of it on repeat, you’re not trying to feel anything but that moment. In conclusion, that’s why I like lo-fi music because sometimes I don’t want to think about the world, the things that I have to do, or even the future. I just want to put on my headphones, listen to a repetitive jazzy tune, close my eyes and dream away.
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