Producer Series #1

This collection is not about songs, or even music, but about sound:

There are certain producers, studios and record companies best known for being producers (Phil Spector, Lee «Scratch» Perry), studios (Sun Studios, Studio One) or record companies (Motown, Factory Records), with a distinct sound overriding the individual talent. But most producers flit around from album to album, band to band, record corporation to record corporation. With some albums selling well and others rarely if ever to be heard, and few of the bands likely to appear on the same record, most people miss the connection. The producer's contribution goes largely unrecognised, which is why Toilet Guppies is launching a series of comps collecting the scattered work of such sound whisperers.

If you listen to the various projects a producer has overseen in one set, you'll appreciate how a good producer makes his mark on the work, guiding the listener through the music by way of the mix, challenging, pushing or manipulating the emotional state of the performers, adding (or subtracting) arrangements… A producer worth his mettle becomes an artist in his own right, bringing to the mix his own textures, philosophy, judgment, demands and perhaps instruments. Thus George Martin was known as the «fifth member» of the Beatles, &c. &c.

The subject of the above comp is the «sixth member» of an English environmentalist art rock-techno prog group that has pioneered Internet music distribution. He has also worked with the finest folk/hip-hop mixer upper to come out of the Church of Scientology; an offensively bland but eminently competent French duo applauded for their interior design muzak (such as their robotic, paradoxically sexless hit about a sexy boy); the actress daughter of a legendary Judeo-Gallic fun boy; a knight of the realm who once used to be in the best known rock/pop group of all time; a slacker alt. rock band inexplicably adored by the sonic youth underground mafia as if they were deities; some blips on the hipster radar that vanished like UFOs; and Travis.

Regardless of the merits of the artists he has produced, what this musician and sound engineer brings to the mixing table is sublime: The crisp and warm synthesizers, the glockenspiel punctuation and those languid strings he coats the music in all make you feel like someone's gently spreading honey laced with opium across your eardrums.

And the mixing! There's always something happening. Details abound, tickling your cognition, yet nothing ever competes for space or attention. Everything in its right place. Not afraid of noise, he's also deft at somehow making something loud and uptempo come from a place of great sensitivity, almost delicate. And unlike the unimaginative polish applied to hits, there's not a boring sound in this guy's sonic universe. There's a kind of futurism to his craft: If Kraftwerk succeeded in conjuring the music of an unconscious, mechanical machine, this bloke predicts what an artificial intelligence might one day compose.


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