[quote type=”center”] Everything in its right place [/quote]
Sometimes, a producer is so intrinsically linked with a band’s sound that they are more or less considered an extra member of the group. Who would The Beatles have been without the steady guiding hand of George Martin? Would David Bowie have experimented as much if Brian Eno wasn’t pushing him to go further, to explore new sounds? Nigel Godrich is so closely linked with Radiohead, so responsible for changing their sound into the brilliant collage it has become ever since he produced their 1997 breakout OK Computer, that the label of ‘Radiohead’s sixth member” is incredibly deserving. Godrich produces sounds that are at once electronic, with blips and drones of static, that also somehow sound organic and real. This effect has been incredibly apparent on his work with Radiohead, but also extends into his collaborations with acts as notable as Beck, Travis, Pavement, and The Divine Comedy.
Godrich’s record isn’t spotless, as he has been involved on some ill-advised projects such as 2010’s Turn-Ons for Supergrass side project The Hotrats. The album bears very little of Godrich’s signature layered, electronic sheen, instead presenting a series of covers that range from passable (a jangly version of Elvis Costello’s Pump it Up) to horrific (a sleepy, dispirited (You Gotta Fight) For Your Right (To Party!), originally by The Beastie Boys). Godrich also produced two albums for French duo Air, 2004’s Talkie Walkie and 2007’s Pocket Symphony, both of which, while not horrible, don’t even come close to the group’s breakout one two punch of The Virgin Suicides and 10,000 Hz Legend.
No discussion of the best albums of the 1990s would be complete without OK Computer, an album that took Radiohead from being an inspired curiosity to a formidable beast of the music world virtually overnight. OK Computer is a vision of a bleak landscape that is fragile but beautiful, narrated by a man who is hopeful for the future, but who is also absolutely terrified of it. Godrich’s fingerprints are all over the album, especially when one listens to the contrast between Radiohead’s previous effort, 1995’s The Bends. The open, clean sound of The Bends is replaced on OK Computer by guitars that wail through synthesizers, drums that are fuzzy and clipped off, and vocals that swirl and buzz over the apocalyptic landscape of the instruments.
Though almost every track on OK Computer is indicative of Godrich’s contributions, showing how much he enhanced the band’s sound, a few tracks stand out as more pronounced examples. “Exit Music (For A Film)” begins as a plaintive acoustic dirge that is soon invaded by an ethereal electronic chorus, ghosts breaking through the static of a distant radio transmission. The result is something that grows over the course of four minutes from something that could have been a minor note on an otherwise spectacular album to a bellowing titan of beautiful noise that rockets the album to new heights
Another track where Godrich’s influence on the band comes to the forefront is “Climbing Up The Walls”, a sinister track where lead singer Thom Yorke’s voice seems to emerge out of a cacaphony of digital bleeps to provide a song that reaches a darkness that Radiohead had never approached before. The song provides a vision of paranoia, with Godrich’s electronic elements threatening to drown out everything else at a moment’s notice. Because of this, the song becomes claustrophobic, cagey and threatening.
Godrich made OK Computer the album that it is, an album that to this day still sounds fresh and new, a complete vision of a band at their peak.
Godrich’s collaboration with the Scottish group Travis produced a very similar effect for the group as it did for Radiohead, with Godrich taking the good things about the band and elevating it to new heights. The first song on the album, “Sing”, begins with what sounds like metallic wind blowing across a digital plain, and continues with electronic bells and tones swirling underneath the crisp rock/folk sound that the band was known for from their breakout hit “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”.
Although Godrich’s style is as apparent on this album when compared to his work with Radiohead, it’s still there, and it enhances the scale of the group’s sound, producing one of the most raw, honest albums I’ve ever heard.
Interestingly enough, although Beck made his mark on the world by blending electronic noise with traditional stoner folk sensibilites, his first collaboration with Godrich, 1998’s Mutations is decidedly low-key and mellow, especially when compared to his previous effort, the samples and effects laden masterpiece Odelay. On Mutations, Godrich stripped Beck of his pseduo-hip hop persona and presented a spare, dreamy, intimate portrait of Beck that proved he was more than the hipster one trick pony that “Loser” and “Where It’s At” would have lead one to believe.
Mutations is interesting because it came out less than a year after the Godrich produced OK Computer, yet the feeling between the two albums couldn’t be more distinct. This shows that Godrich, while seeming to impart a very specific feel to the recordings he works on, can be versatile and helps elevate an artist with his contribution.
[learn_more caption=”Nigel Godrich Discography” state=”open”]
|1990||Scandalo||Gianna Nannini||Assistant engineer|
|1990||Tune In||The Silent Blue||Engineer, Producer|
|1991||Superstition||Siouxsie and the Banshees||Assistant engineer|
|1992||Vivienne McKone||Vivienne McKone||Assistant engineer|
|1993||Buffalo Skinners||Big Country||Assistant engineer|
|1994||Carnival of Light||Ride||Engineer|
|1994||My Iron Lung EP||Radiohead||Producer, Engineer|
|1995||The Bends||Radiohead||Engineer, Producer on one song (“Black Star”)|
|1995||Feeling Mission||Harvest Ministers||Engineer|
|1995||Booth and the Bad Angel||Tim Booth & Angelo Badalamenti||Engineer|
|1996||English and French||Hopper||Engineer|
|1996||Sound of..McAlmont & Butler||McAlmont and Butler||Engineer, Assistant engineer, Mixing|
|1997||OK Computer||Radiohead||Balance engineer, Recording technician (Producer)|
|1997||Silver Sun||Silver Sun||Producer, Mixing|
|1997||Left of the Middle||Natalie Imbruglia||Mixing|
|1998||Sisters in Pain||Jamaica||Engineer|
|1998||Try Whistling This||Neil Finn||Remixer, Mixing|
|1999||Can You Still Feel?||Jason Falkner||Engineer|
|1999||The Man Who||Travis||Producer, Mixing|
|2000||Kid A||Radiohead||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2001||The Invisible Band||Travis||Producer, Mixing|
|2001||Regeneration||The Divine Comedy||Producer|
|2002||Rouge on Pockmarked Cheeks||Brazzaville||Producer, Mixing, String ensemble, Fender Rhodes|
|2002||Sea Change||Beck||Producer, Engineer, Mixing, Synthesizer, percussion, keyboards|
|2003||City Reading (Tre Storie Western)||Air & Alessandro Baricco||Mixing|
|2003||Hail to the Thief||Radiohead||Editing, Mixing, Operation, Recording, Producer|
|2004||Absent Friends||The Divine Comedy||Mixing|
|2004||Heroes to Zeros||The Beta Band||Mixing|
|2004||Talkie Walkie||Air||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2004||When It Falls||Zero 7||Guitar, Sounds|
|2004||“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”||Band Aid 20||Producer|
|2005||Chaos and Creation in the Backyard||Paul McCartney||Producer, Guitar Loops|
|2005||The Roads Don’t Love You||Gemma Hayes||Mixing|
|2006||The Eraser||Thom Yorke||Producer, Mixing, Musician, Arranger|
|2006||5:55||Charlotte Gainsbourg||Producer, Mixing|
|2006||The Garden||Zero 7||Acoustic guitar, Engineer|
|2006||The Information||Beck||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2006||Dad’s Weird Dream||Silver Sun||Remixing|
|2007||The Boy With No Name||Travis||Producer|
|2007||In Rainbows||Radiohead||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2008||Odd Couple||Gnarls Barkley||Engineer, Mixing|
|2010||Turn Ons||The Hotrats||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2011||The King of Limbs||Radiohead||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2011||Supercollider / The Butcher||Radiohead||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2011||The Daily Mail / Staircase||Radiohead||Producer, Engineer, Mixing|
|2011||A Different Ship||Here We Go Magic||Producer|