Lo-fidelity as a virtue
I was having a text conversation the other day with one of the people in a rad punk band I’m working with, talking about production and mixing. And he said this:
“I always hear sound engineers complaining about the loudness wars and keeping mixes more ‘natural.’ Being a punk I love mixes that are dirty as hell and embrace lo-fidelity as a virtue and I am confident you feel the same way. I have never understood the purist standpoint of keeping the clarity intact. I mean for classical, country and some jazz I totally get it, but rock should be loud as hell imo.
There is just always soooo much to learn to make good recordings and especially mixes.”
And I wanted to share that with you, because there are a couple of things in there that really resonate with me!
First, regarding the loudness wars and keeping mixes more “natural”: I want to say that I do respect people who work like this. Also, I am not personally a person who works like this, and I generally don’t enjoy listening to records that were made in this way. My personal bias is that I like when I can hear the medium — by which I mean, I like when I can hear the recording. I like when I can hear stuff being done to the music. I fall into the “the studio is an instrument” school of thinking, and I like when I hear recordings that were made with a point of view.
But, like I said, no shade for the people out there who like to make naturalistic recordings — that’s a craft, and I respect it.
Second: I love the idea that “Rock should be loud as hell imo.” Hard co-sign on this one. And not just rock! I love when music reaches out and grabs me in a visceral way. When it forces me to engage. And I like to make records that engage in this way. Rock and punk records, for sure. But also, to pull an example out of the air, synthpop records! Shannon’s records are also loud as hell. I’m routinely coming in at like -6.5 LUFS with her mixes. It’s because that’s how I feel that music; it works the best for me, personally, when it’s loud and urgent and has some grit about it. It draws me in and makes me feel the emotions more intensely.
Third: “lo-fidelity as a virtue” is a perfect phrase. How wonderful is that? The idea that doing things “wrong,” doing things lo-fi, isn’t actually wrong at all. That it’s possible to advocate for a way of making art that doesn’t aspire to be the shiniest, the glossiest, the most airbrushed and technically perfect. There’s a lot of real, raw emotion to be found in imperfect artforms — and, therefore, when we set out to purposefully make something that’s imperfect in that way, we are purposefully aiming at making that specific sort of emotional connection. Whoa, that’s deep.
Grittily — jamie