Lo-Fi - Fortitude
Stereo Soul, the studio debut from Tokyo-based trio Lo-Fi, was a refreshing outing through its combination of hip-hop vocals and jazz fusion; an intimate production with a pleasant ambient tone, it proved to be a good showcase for a band currently doing what many artists in a similar field aren’t.
Building upon the romantic idealism set by lead singer/songwriter Goh Hirose, Lo-Fi’s second studio album clearly has greater goals on its mind, opening up new avenues with its exploration of simple life philosophies. With their music generally being positive in approach, Fortitude opens somewhat worryingly as a rather cynical piece about the state of the world today. It’s an all-too-appropriate title, then, that quickly puts its cards onto the table and asks its listener what he or she is prepared to do to help make the future brighter.
By doing so, Fortitude takes on a narrative-like quality as it goes on a deeper emotional journey, with its subsequent tracks sharing common inspirational themes about facing adversity, learning to make changes and relying on one’s self to get what they want out of life. At times some of these messages seem to get a tad tautological but then there’s enough belief behind them to overlook certain similarities, while a couple of tracks here and there serve as gentler pick-me-ups, such as ‘Cubic Glass’ - a great instrumental number - and the romantic ‘Apple Tea’, with its lovely, feel-good melody. There’s also poignancy here, greatly amplified in tracks like ‘Departure’, which was written for the late brother who Hirose never knew but took great influence from.
Recorded at the famed Onkio Haus, Tokyo, the idea behind Fortitude’s presentation was to have it sound as pure as possible - to make it seem “live”. With little by way of editing, the end result is still polished and certainly indicative of the kind of quality that Lo-Fi is known to put out on a consistent basis. Fortitude is a well-focused product, instilled with a sound that’s now becoming synonymous with a band that seems to be getting more creative with each release. Where do they go from here?