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2016: Lo-fi house emerged from the underground

The sub-genre exploded into life this year

  • Words: Harrison Williams | Illustration: Patch Keyes
  • 7 December 2016

We're looking back at the trends that defined dance music in 2016. Next up, the rise of lo-fi house...

A slightly rugged texture creeps out of the speakers as steady paced 4/4 percussion builds into a wonderful display of rough and atmospheric dance music, with subtle layers of delicate melody. The distorted essence makes it seem as if the track is a piece of deep house produced using primitive electronic equipment in a Chicago basement 20 years ago, but it’s not. What is in fact filling the air is a track off an album titled ‘Cranks’ by the mysterious Los Angeles-based producer Grant, released in 2016 via the Lobster Theremin sub-label Mörk. The album, dropped at the tail end of this year, is one of many recent releases that supplied us with a sound that’s picking up steam among a fresh crop of artists, a sound that has been one of the major emerging trends of dance music in 2016. Enter the intriguing realm of lo-fi house, a burgeoning scene that’s quickly accumulating more than just a niche following.

Budding German talent TRP, who has become one of the scene’s most creative artists to watch, believes it’s the subtle imperfections that are attracting listeners: “I think people don't like the polished and clean sound of electronic music nowadays. These lo-fi textures sound dirty and rough and the warmth is something people just like. Everybody seems to like the sound of dusty vinyl. For me, I don't try to sound lo-fi, I just like the sound of tape and tube warmth. Polished music is just kind of boring to me.”

On a similar note, Barcelona-based DJ Seinfeld, a freshly emerging artist that many followers of the lo-fi sound will recognize, believes there is a more rebellious nature to the producers creating these harsh dance tracks: “I think it shares some similarities to the whole punk and metal genre; you won't always have clear and crisp tones, but that was never the point of it, and now with all the production software available, the lo-fi bedroom producers are the dance music equivalent of people rocking out in someone's garage somewhere. I think it invites some listeners to be a bit more curious and thoughtful about what they hear, and maybe make them re-think the whole paradigm of pure-sounding dance music.”

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