But it’s the one thing that Radiohead is not good at. They’re really good at writing songs, but they’re not really good at mixing them.
Thom Yorke is a great singer, but he’s not the greatest mix master in the world. He mixes his vocals with the drums to make them sound like the drums, and then adds guitar and bass to make them sound like guitars and bass. It sounds like there are lots of different instruments playing at the same time, but in reality there are only two: a drum kit and an electric guitar.
If you listen closely, you can hear that some of the drums are actually played on a keyboard instead of being hit by sticks. It’s an interesting effect, but it doesn’t really work because a keyboard can’t create the same dynamics as a drum kit. The result is that some of Yorke’s vocals get drowned out by all of the other instruments playing at once.
I don’t think this was intentional; I think it just happened because they wanted to experiment with new sounds without worrying about how they would sound when mixed together.
Radiohead is the most important band of their generation. They’re also possibly the worst mixers of electronic music in history. “Hail to the Thief”, their latest effort, is a great album that is marred by an almost incomprehensible mix. This review will explain why.
Radiohead has been hailed as the band of generation, who’s music has redefined electronic music for a new decade, and whose influence will be felt for decades to come. They have certainly been influential in songwriting (see “Creep”), and they have pioneered some exciting new sounds (see “Kid A”). But their mixing has always been…interesting. What has made them so successful is not their ability to mix a song together, but their ability to write songs that transcend and overcome any mixing challenges.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a good comparison here. Both bands are very creative in writing music that draws in listeners and creates lasting memories. The difference between the two bands is that RHCP can write a song and produce it so that it sounds great from day one, whereas Radiohead often requires many years or even decades before listeners can hear how good the songs really are
Radiohead was one of the first great bands to use ProTools, a software tool that allows musicians to manipulate sounds on a digital level, and they have been using it ever since. Their latest album, In Rainbows, is no different. However, the mixing on this album is pretty bad.
The first track, 15 Step, begins with a series of drumbeats that are all panned to one side. The effect is disorienting for the listener. The next track Nude is only slightly better.
However, there are some examples of good mixing on this album. Track 4 Weird Fishes/Arpeggi has a nice reverb effect on the guitar and vocals that sound like they were recorded in a swimming pool. The album ends with Videotape and its distorted sound effects on the piano sound like something from John Cage’s repertoire.
Radiohead’s new album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is a return to form for a band that never lost its way. Radiohead’s sound has been evolving for some time now as the band has been moving away from the electronic style of Kid A and Amnesiac to a more symphonic, orchestral style on albums like In Rainbows and The King of Limbs.
On this new album the band returns to the electronic sounds of their earlier work while also incorporating some of their newer symphonic elements. It’s an interesting combination which makes for an album full of great songs with a variety of sounds and styles.
The album starts out with “Burn the Witch,” which is one of the best songs on the album. This song combines some of Radiohead’s older electronic sounds with their newer orchestral ones, making it a perfect introduction to the rest of the album.
The next song, “Daydreaming,” is a slower song that continues in this style but isn’t quite as good as the first one. It does have some nice moments though and is still worth listening to because it helps set up what comes next.
The production on the new Radiohead album, “The King of Limbs,” is unusually meticulous and fussy. The sound is painstakingly arranged in layers—there are hundreds of little flourishes packed into some songs—and the rhythms are often oddly syncopated, with strange slippages and elisions. Thom Yorke’s vocals are treated as discrete components to be assembled, like pixels in a Photoshop image. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; even Radiohead’s worst albums are immaculately produced. But it does suggest that something odd is going on.
“The King of Limbs” feels less like the product of a band than an elaborate handoff between studio hands: the producer Nigel Godrich, who has worked with Radiohead for nearly twenty years; their drummer, Phil Selway; their guitarist, Jonny Greenwood; and Yorke himself. It’s hard to think of any other contemporary rock band whose members have been so thoroughly schooled in studio technology, or who have focused so intently on the possibilities of recording. Some tracks on “The King of Limbs” were even conceived during jam sessions at Godrich’s studio.
The result is a series of beautifully decorated curiosities—airy songs with busy surfaces—that seem
The production on Radiohead’s latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is stellar. It sounds like it was recorded in a lush, warm studio and mixed by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.
I don’t know exactly what they’re doing, but I do know that the sounds are wonderfully intertwined. The bass on “Glass Eyes” doesn’t just sit low in the mix and occupy the same sonic space as the kick drum; it’s a unique presence that feels like a physical object vibrating against your chest. The kick drum itself has an incredible depth to it. It feels like you could fall into it. And the ambient effects are so incredibly natural sounding that you have to remind yourself you’re listening to music produced by humans in studios and not field recordings from nature itself.
Which is why I feel compelled to write about this album: It’s a master class in mixing electronic music.