What is lo-fi music?

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Lo-fi music has become popular lately, especially when it comes to relaxing and concentrating. Find out what it is.

Man in a recording studio wearing headphones.

We tell you what Lo-fi music is and why it is so successful. / Photo: Unsplash - Tanner Boriack

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: What is lo-fi music?

When you hear or read this term, you may not know exactly what it is. Perhaps you have never even heard a song with this particular style. According to what the Cactus Magazine website mentions, it is "art with obsolete technology", something that contrasts with the enormous production that we see today.

In other words, the sound technology increased over time, which led to all the songs having a really complex production job. However, the fact that “rudimentary” recording systems are used does not mean that the sound is bad, on the contrary: the intention is imperfection.

The really curious thing about this musical style is that, according to what El País mentions, it is an increasingly popular alternative to study, relax or simply fall asleep. This caused that there are different digital stations that continuously broadcast this type of hip hop music, with a very particular style in the animation of the videos, where sometimes still images with retro effects are also given.

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What are the characteristics of lo-fi music?

A priori, one would think that a music recording with outdated or aesthetically distorted media could involve discomfort in the ear of the listener. However, much of its success could be due to the same situation, since the listener perceives that it is not a production error, but a specific intention.

At the same time, when we identify a theme of this style, it automatically catches our attention, all due to the cassette-style “noises” that are generated. This, in turn, is combined with a crude and dirty sound, which contrasts with the enormous productions of many current bands and artists.

So, when combined with slow rhythms, a very interesting relaxing effect is achieved, something that complements the image. Although this specific genre can also be found on some platforms such as Spotify, the success occurs when combined with fixed animations that occur in a loop.

Thus, when we listen to a genre theme we automatically interpret that we can relax. The idea of "slowing down" can also be achieved with different added effects, as is often the case with rain. If the song is acoustic or the beat is slow, the idea of sadness arises spontaneously, although adding a quota of peace difficult to describe, especially if headphones are used.

What is always present is the low fidelity element, that is, the simulation of a home recording that alters what should be a track “in optimal conditions”. These instrumental pieces, as mentioned by Vice's website, were able to become popular thanks to the generation of 2000, who was captivated by the gentle rhythms and relaxing aesthetic of Adult Swim.

It is not surprising, then, that there are different specialized radio stations on YouTube, as is the case with ChilledCow, which currently has more than 5 million subscribers on his channel. So, we could be witnessing a change in the music industry, where big editions no longer matter so much, but the sensations that can occur in the ear of the listener.