Sunday, January 30, 2005

Greatest moments in rock and roll, part 4

Notable switches between lo-fi and hi-fi sound on recordings

Blonde Redhead - "I Still Get Rocks Off" (0:38)
Blonde Redhead - "Mother" (0:25)
Blonde Redhead - "Equus" (3:18)
Rilo Kiley - "The Good That Won't Come Out" (3:40)
Rilo Kiley - "A Better Son/Daughter" (1:40)
Belle & Sebastian - "Beautiful" (4:53) (lo-fi excerpt from alternate take, bleeds in after the song ends)
Brian Wilson - "Our Prayer/Gee" (1:33) (hi-fi sound fades in)
Pink Floyd - "Wish You Were Here" (0:59) (hi-fi acoustic guitar over lo-fi electric)

This is an effect that can only be done in a studio. So, if done meaninglessly, it could sound contrived and stupid. Blonde Redhead uses it to remind their listener of the live concert experience (lo-fi sounds like the live "bootleg" tape). The belle & Sebastian example follows a similar philosophy as Blonde Redhead. Rilo Kiley do not apply the technique well, making it an artificial jolt of a climax to their songs that becomes too predictable upon repeated listening. Brian Wilson recently used the technique on the Smile album. The effect bridges the gap between the "doo-wop" of the jukebox 50s to the "barbershop quartet on acid" of the hi-fi 60s. And finally, the most well-known example is the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", which works well to sound like someone playing the guitar along with the radio.

Sculpted Static used the technique on "Opium."

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