Feel U (Single, 2019) by Good Luck

A Love Letter to Lo-Fi House.

Since the mid-2010s, did Lo-Fi House pick up or did some of its artists blow up from sounds and skills beyond the scene? Laurence Guy moved into vocal tracks. Ross From Friends is using his own FX plugins to make surreal sounds. Mall Grab is into some kind of techno/rave hybrid. DJ Seinfeld and Route 8 appear to be making house music for waiting rooms. 

Some of the “household” names of Lo-Fi House have moved on to their own sounds, so a quintessential genre release like Feel U in 2019 begs the question: Where does Lo-Fi House go from here? 

Low-key, hi-pass filter, a glazed-over vocal track: Feel U hits the typical ambience of Lo-Fi House. The vocal choice is perfect, and the song is beautiful. In a bubble, Good Luck made a great track that I’ve been repeating over and over again. 

But each time I play this track, I feel a bit lonelier. I tried to create an algorithmic playlist based on the track in Spotify and Apple Music, and find results that circle back to my play history or rather unrelated tracks that don’t fit the mood. It’s like I already exhausted this micro-genre, just as I am about to exhaust this track. 

I wrote about Lo-Fi House around 2018 or 2019, when I first discovered it and fell in love with just about every artist involved. Considering Trudge’s classic track “Deep Eyes Blue Skies”, I found so much aesthetic value in Lo-Fi House because it held back so much. The energy of the track was directly based on the energy of its listener, who found in their imagination the manic danceability of such low-key sounds. 

“Withholding” is the word I used, a word I’ve internalized since an Arrested Development episode from over a decade ago (“It’s like she gets off by being withholding”), and further developed with an idea from The Young Pope (“Absence is presence.”). The minimalism of Lo-Fi House is so powerful because you know what’s missing, and you can fill that gap with your own ideals. Lo-Fi House, unlike the typical club-fare, doesn’t guide you on what you should feel. It is the wallflower DJ that plays their own opaque selections, and you say “Huh, I think I see where they’re going with this.” You dance, and subtly, the DJ opens up to you even more. 

Do they “get off” on being withholding? No. With the advent of bedroom electronic production, artists have been more capable than ever of creating their own musical corner of the internet, where the millions can pass by without any heartache, but the few who do stop and check out your work are already exceptional people, for having the slightest sensibility that your work makes sense. You withhold because you don’t have any obligations to give people “what they want”. Your only obligation is to make music that speaks to yourself, and let others gather if they so desire. 

And even after this description, I get lonelier. Sometimes, after a period of minimalism, one would like to find what they want without all the games. “Absence is presence” is not a universal, and not an ultimatum, but a philosophy of a particular time, a particular place. I hear “Feel U” and I want to get closer, but its spaciousness, its distance, its hiding-away of the vocals keeps me away, like a puppy behind a shop window. 

To say this in more direct terms: The artists that can truly transcend Lo-Fi House are the ones that can alternate between tracks of absence and tracks of presence. Peel away the gauze from “Feel U” and it could possibly compare with the likes of a manic Daphni release (who can also continue this conversation with their track “Falling”, which plays with Lo-Fi conventions with more awareness). I don’t ask that any artist change their sounds, but now I can understand where Lo-Fi House stands in my emotional-musical being: The quiet, friendly DJ who has the sensibilities of something much more grandiose but shies away from it. So I can’t always stay with the shying-away; many times, I’ll need to step out and stand in more present forms of dance music.