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Lo-Fi Rock 101

by Dan Weiss

Lo-Fi Rock 101


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With gated drums, synths and reverb every which way, '80s rock seemed to represent a peak (or for some, nadir) of idealized crystalline production values. So it was inevitable there would be a backlash to such "perfection." In came bands like Guided by Voices and The Mountain Goats, who have helped take "lo-fi" to a new level, putting together hundreds of songs in the most compact and cheap way possible. Following suit were Pavement and Helium, with such homemade classics as "Loretta's Scars" and "Pat's Trick," respectively. Meanwhile, ever-tricksters They Might Be Giants raced to the bottom with "I Can Hear You," which was recorded directly to phonograph at the Edison museum -- without electricity. Even electronic artists like Pole attempted to make beautiful music out of a broken filter's tape hiss ("Tanzen"), while more popular visionaries like Beck ("It's All in Your Mind") and Modest Mouse ("Convenient Parking") started out constructing their version of rock 'n' roll from the most DIY means. At the turn of the 2000s, a whole new wave of bands like No Age ("Everybody's Down"), Wavves ("No Hope Kids") and Times New Viking ("Faces on Fire") turned lo-fi's slacker reputation on its head by filling their tunes with the urgency of scorching distortion.

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