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Review: Verbal Jint and Sanchez Go Lo-Fi On Their Smooth New Collaboration 'Doin' It' Featuring Bumkey [VIDEO]

By Harper Willis | June 30, 2015 05:56 PM EDT


Why would an artist intentionally choose less-than-optimal sound when a more slick and expansive production style is easily within reach?

Quite simply, because low-fidelity production elements support the mood and emotion of certain songs better than a strictly hi-fi sound.

On their new collaboration "Doin' It," released on Thursday, South Korean artists Verbal Jint and Sanchez opt for the lo-fi route. It's a noisy production, mostly in mono, with a small gravelly sound that works just perfectly.

From the opening seconds of "Doin' It," a short, ambient reverb on the hand claps and a dry drum sound establish a small sonic space. The listener is placed in a living room rather than a stadium. The song is up close and intimate and the setting is intended to match.

While the production isn't entirely in mono, the mix on "Doin' It" is very narrow compared to most modern hip-hop and pop. The drums and keyboards in particular are right up the middle. Placing the drums in mono not only reinforces the feeling of being in a more intimate space, but it also conjures up retro styles of music ranging from '70s soul music to '90s hip hop.

In it's modest production, "Doin' It" returns to a time when music prioritized authenticity and immediacy.

Notice the crackle in the background? No doubt meant to conjure the noise associated with a needle running over vinyl record player. Maybe it's a little over-the-top, but it hard to deny that it adds an element of charm.

Another lo-fi technique that adds to the retro-effect in "Doin' It" is limiting the range of top end frequencies. Intentionally stunting the frequency range of a track sounds like a counterproductive idea, and it certainly would make it harder for the track to compete with other pop songs on the radio. But "Doin' It" isn't a maximalist pop song, it's an intimate, chilled out hip-hop track. A maximalist approach to production wouldn't support the emotion or attitude of the track and would risk obscuring the core of the song.

There are a few notable exceptions to the lo-fi production approach.

Verbal Jint's, Sanchez's and guest artist Bumkey's vocals are full, lush and have an expansive, airy top-end characteristic of modern pop recordings.

In this case, the lo-fi production serves the purpose of making the vocals stand out and seem larger than life. The fact that the backing tracks are narrow and have a rolled-off top-end makes the vocals seem wider and taller than they actually are. In particular, the vocal harmonies seem very large compared to the rest of the track.

This same strategy of juxtaposition is employed on the bridge, where suddenly the sound plunges into a massive space.

Long reverb on the percussion and delay on the vocals temporarily transport the listener to a larger space. The frequency range and width of the backing tracks expand and a modern synthesized string sound is added to the arrangement. In addition, although the top-end is curtailed, the bass range on "Doin' It" is full and deep, ensuring the track doesn't lose any power or seem too flimsy in comparison to other contemporary hip-hop tracks.

Going lo-fi isn't just about having a retro or minimalist aesthetic and it isn't an all-or-nothing proposition.

Often finding the best production for a song is a matter of finding the right balance between lo-fi and hi-fi. and "Doin' It" does just that.

Watch the music video for "Doin' It" from Verbal Jint and Sanchez featuring Bumkey RIGHT HERE

Harper Willis is a Brooklyn-based producer and engineer. He has a passion for recording bands in crazy places, like ski slopes, motorcycle garages and swimming pools.

Tagged :  Doin' It, Verbal Jint, Sanchez, Bumkey


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