A lo-fi listening guide to Asia
From indie bands to new record labels, we've got your lo-fi desires covered
Lo-Fi, short for “low-fidelity”, is a genre of music that highlights the deliberate imperfections in sound quality that are usually only part of the recording process. As such, this aesthetic choice often utilises muted tones, vintage effects and vinyl static to evoke a sense of nostalgia and calm in listeners. Because of its relaxing quality, lo-fi is regularly used as background and studying music, so it’s no surprise that lo-fi channels like Lofi Girl, formerly known as ChilledCow, are subtly booming.
From it's early roots through pioneering artists like Nujabes, to it's recent incarnations via newly launched labels like Bluewerks, lo-fi has has it's own revolution of sorts, and it's clearly here to stay. We present you with a wide-spectrum listening guide to the lo-fi universe that stemmed from Asia.
A joint collaboration between iconic record labels Astralwerks and Blue Note, this new lo-fi collection combines downtempo electronica with jazz music. Despite being quite new, they’ve already held a pop-up shop in FabCafe in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Released in February, their first volume, titled ‘Up Down Left Right’ features up-and-coming artists including Zmeyev, Sebastian Kamae, as well as tysu, and is introduced by BBC Radio 1 DJ, Pete Tong. Both dreamy and vibrant, Bluewerks nailed it on their first output, we’re curious about what’s to come next.
Ethereally connected to the lo-fi movement, and without a doubt he was the root essence of the genre —Nujabes is considered a pioneer of both the chillhop and lo-fi music genres. The ‘King of Lo-fi’ as he’s been dubbed, was born Jun Seba in Tokyo, and known for his impeccable amalgamations that merged jazz, hip hop and soul to create music that sounded both mellow and atmospheric. Although he sadly passed away in 2010, Nujabes’ lasting influence, especially with his work soundtracking Shinichirō Watanabe’s critically acclaimed anime series Samurai Champloo, has gone on to shape the anime side of lo-fi, especially on YouTube. He leaves behind three solo studio albums — Metaphorical Music (2003), Modal Soul (2005) and Spiritual State (posthumously released in 2011.)
Born Ralph Lawrence “Polo” Reyes, the Filipino indie musician gained viral internet fame after the release of his 2017 single ‘Dancing and How Was Your Day?’ on both YouTube and SoundCloud. In fact, Dancing, uploaded onto YouTube by TheLazylazyme, boasts over 3 million views! Describing himself as an “internet artist”, the Manila native was inspired to write his album ‘Jazzie Robinson’ (2017) after ending a four-year relationship in college. Inspired by his love for the sound of old records, Mellow Fellow’s music gives the impression of sounding like a radio tune—warm, bright and intimate. With most of his songs centring around love and heartbreak, the low vocals and relatable message are sure to help get you through your bad days. The singer-songwriter has also collaborated with other artists, such as the likes of Clairo, Floor Cry, and Vansire.
Aside from being famous for their pearl milk teas, beef noodles and night markets, Taiwan also has a thriving indie music scene. Lo-fi music has especially taken off recently, with home-grown band Sunset Rollercoaster’s music characterised as ethereal and comforting. Even their aesthetic is quite airy, with the grainy album covers coupled with their vintage colours highlighting this. Despite being based in a Mandarin-speaking environment, the band mainly sings in English as a stylistic choice. This has allowed them to branch out and reach into the International market, and build a truly global following.
Merry Lamb Lamb
A freelance model, indie music artist and a self-taught producer and songwriter, what’s there not to love? The Hong Kong-based synth star usually sings about love, loss and solitude, which contrasts with the general impression of her music, which is often described as dreamy mixed with electronic and house beats. In fact, Merry’s debut album Genesis celebrates being okay with being lonely, making it quite relatable to the current generation of young Hong Kongers. Aside from music, she’s also collaborated with brands such as Gucci and Simone Rocha - quite an achievement for this rising star!
Partnering with fashion company UNIQLO for their LifeWear Music project, the Japanese musician has released a total of 9 lo-fi songs accompanied by a music video on UNIQLO’s YouTube channel. Surprisingly, the first, second, and last playlist songs were made on the spot whilst filming the video! So if you want something chill and relaxing, STUTS is definitely your go-to artist!
Cafe Music BGM Channel
Formed in 2013, this Japan-based lo-fi music channel aims to compose, perform and record music every day! The band is made up of a pianist, guitarist, bassists and drummer, but have also occasionally added saxophonists, trumpeters and vocalists to certain songs. Boasting more than two million subscribers on YouTube, the channel has over 900 million views, and is watched in over 200 countries. A great channel to stick on when you’re working or have downtime!
Science Noodles are an up and coming indie band based in Hong Kong. Self-described as a "Hong Kong-Taiwan mixed indie-pop baby", the band usually releases more dreamy lo-fi music, sometimes accompanied by a music video reminiscent of the early 2000s.
Hailing from Malaysia, the lo-fi producer’s music is self-described as sounding like “a combination of Flume meets Kanye West with a heady dose of chillhop.” He started dipping his toes into the music scene during high school, and has now amassed over 22,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Soothing and melodious, OnlyM’s tracks are expertly crafted to get you going throughout the day. He’s also collaborated with Los Angeles based Asian-American hip hop artist, Blahza—so for any fans, come over and take a look!