Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Low Fidelity

One thing I liked about the punk movement in the 1970s was that it was so LoFi. Guys in the basement making tapes and pooling their money to press 45s. I loved playing the records not on a fancy turntable but on an old record player. The vinyl got better as the dirt bore into the grooves and the pops, hisses, and scratches were like an added level of unslick production.

I am not an audiophile. I like songs. I don't give a shit about separation and highs and lows and woofers and tweeters. Haven't a friggin' clue what any of it really means. I have a tin ear. I buy records because I like the songs, and I don't have a clue how to arrange my speakers to maximize the sound experience.

I really like artists who aren't afraid to try new things and who shrug-off the ordinary. I like spoken word stuff and music made with odd instruments. I like yodelling records and jungle beats. In these days of dullness it is not as easy to find LoFi out there. The power trio is still grinding away; but there aren't many punk bands making dance songs while banging on colanders and making feedback with transistor radios.

Some little girl in expensive clothes from Canada who never heard of David Bowie is considered the hottest punk act on the scene and her RIAA-protected over-produced releases are hardly counter-culture. But, she waves her hand in the air with thumb, index and baby fingers sticking out, so they call her punk. She is not punk. She is not LoFi. (What the hell does that hand symbol mean anyhow?)

Indie labels are still the way to go for innovative music and certainly the only outlet for LoFi recordings. With the demise of local record stores, it is harder to find these releases.

The best place to find print advertisements for new releases from indie labels combined with excellent journalism is the magazine Punk Planet! Get it! Tons of cool bands advertise on their pages.

I also like to buy stuff from CD Baby where indie label recordings are the norm, not the exception.

I listen to Yma Sumac and Om Kalsoum, and I love old monaural recordings of Robert Johnson and Ma Rainey. I enjoy that raw recording of the human voice and simple (even if electric) instruments. Every culture has their LoFi icons.

A couple of years ago I met a young man in New York. He wore really great clothes that his mother made, was thin as a rail, as pretty as the day is long, and with a wit to die for! We met while he was standing at the backstage door of a midtown studio awaiting the arrival of a musician he admired. You might think I was there doing the same thing, but it was coincidence that I found myself being introduced to him.

We became fast friends and he is one of my favorite young men in the whole world. He likes Velvet Underground records, the punk movement, poetry, angst, talking about sex, and avoiding the tedium of dull people. He reminds me of me, only cuter. And younger. He writes songs and gets around. He's been in bands and released solo CDs, and he's becoming a bit of a LoFi legend.

His latest solo release is Long Island Baby. If Iggy Pop and Lou Reed had abandoned the notions of pop music and had only made records with Cale and Cage, they might have made this CD! Buy Long Island Baby at this link.

Eventually I met a buddy of his and we became friends, too. I taught him about how the streets and avenues of NYC form the grid and how Broadway intersects to make the famous squares. I made him buy a Supremes CD and apply to college in New York. He's really smart and adorable, too.

The two of them are peas-in-a-pod who could not be more dissimilar. They should become homosexuals for a few years, which every self-respecting artist did prior to the Reagan administration; but, they are from the era of the NeoCon and they do not see the benefit of switching cultures (and genders) for a while.

I was flattered when they approached me about working on a project they were putting together as a memorial to Jimmy Haig. They asked if I would be interested in doing vocals on one of the tracks. Buy Poems For Girls That Straight-Up Rejected Me, by The Jimmy Haig Experience at this link. It's sort of The Residents versus The Flying Lizards, with some William Burroughs sensibility and Jeff Stryker balls. The project is a LoFi masterpiece. My vocal is about plying sex from girls with art, and hating beautiful people.

These two CDs are the best and hottest in LoFi releases!


The Jimmy Haig Experience, Poems For Girls That Straight-Up Rejected Me

NN Maddox, Long Island Baby

For some German LoFi, go to the LoFi-Lab

For some Indian LoFi, go to Rajalakshmi's site