Hello sound friends.

This is is another 'list your top' question. Today:

Which music producers do you feel created unique and inspiring sound design and in so doing made the albums they produced a unique sonic experience?

To get the ball rolling, here's a few of my faves:

David Bascombe

Nigel Godrich

Thurston Moore

J Dilla


Martin Hannet

On U Sound

Paul Simon

Who would you rate?

11 Answers 11


I think some of my favorite music producers who create unique sound design within their music are:

  • Amon Tobin
  • Tim Exile
  • Milanese
  • Wisp
  • Aphex Twin
  • The Tuss
  • Squarepusher
  • Monolake
  • Richard Devine
  • Eskmo

    (this list is a bit biased towards electronic music btw!)


There are way too many electronic artists to name exhaustively, but some that come immediately to mind include (and apologies for overlaps):

  • Amon Tobin
  • Monolake
  • The User
  • Matmos
  • Xela ("The Dead Sea," especially)

Also need to give a tip of the hat to Trent Reznor. After his first 3-4 albums, I kept wishing he'd do a whole album of interludes and instrumentals, because I think he's a better sound designer than a composer. His multi-album set "Ghosts I-IV" was finally what I was hoping for. I'm no longer a fan of the rest of his ouevre, but there are a lot of neat ideas there (and most tracks have photos that suggests how some of the sounds were made).

I'd also add Lalo Schifrin, David Axelrod, the Kronos Quartet, John Cage, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Takemitsu as designers of unique sounds with (soemtimes) more traditional instrumentation. Heck, I'd even throw Tom Waits in there, especially on the percussive side.

  • Matmos is pure genius
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 17:19
  • Ooh. And Monolake
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 17:20
  • Wow, that's great stuff. Thanks for sharing - you've inspired me to head down to my local record shop. Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 6:51
  • Tobin's Foley Room is an all-time favorite. And have to agree with your opinion of Trent too. I can't seem to be able to go back past The Fragile. I just picked up Ghosts I-IV about a month or 2 ago. It hasn't left my car's CD player yet. Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 21:41

Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has to be my choice.

All of his albums enjoy great sound quality and tasteful production. However, he's a genius at creating soundscapes using guitars and synths. He also creates some great ambient music via his Bass Communion title.

If you like a bit of Prog/Metal/Psychedelia then you ought to have a listen.


  • Thanks! Will definitely broaden my horizons. Actully, a study in the change of drum recording techniques with the Dawn of metal in the 70s might make for some interesting reading too.
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:45
  • Wow it's not very often I hear people mentioning Porcupine Tree :) He also worked with Opeth. Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 18:37
  • @Justin - had an obsession ever since I saw then supporting Ozric Tentacles back in '95. Wilson certainly gets around. It's funny as you keep seeing the same people working together. Best thing is the whole Dream Theater - Marillion - Porcupine Tree link as they're my 3 favourite bands too.
    – ianjpalmer
    Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 8:42
  • @ianjpalmer --awesome, just bought my tickets to see Marillion next summer in Chicago. Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 5:19

I'd have to say Arjen Lucassen (he puts together the Ayreon albums), and Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad and numerous solo efforts/side projects). Both experiment a lot, but in totally different ways.

They're worth checking out for the sonic landscapes they produce.

  • Love me some Strapping Young Lad
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 14:45
  • when I read this answer I thought you were saying he is a "strapping young lad". lol +1
    – Utopia
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 18:05

I'd say composer, arranger and producer David Axelrod. He's a master at designing multi-layered compositions that often take the listener on a deep journey...

  • OMG +1,000. He's a true, under-recognized master. Good call! Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 16:19

I'm a huge fan of Flying Lotus.

Have a listen to this: (in HD of course)


Such an amazingly colourful mesh of organic and electronic textures. Blows my mind every time I hear it!

  • Yeah loving Flying Lotus, Kode 9 too, I used to do sound design with him at uni.
    – Lenny
    Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 11:00

Lots of great names in this inspiring thread.

Trent Reznor is one of my big inspirations for working with sound. He has done so much great work with Nine Inch Nails and now he's done the score to the new David Fincher film, The Social Network - really looking forward to that one.

Another great modern producer is Dave Fridmann who has done beautiful work with Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. I once visited him in his studio in upstate NY and he's got a whole house that's constructed as a studio - The Flaming Lips usually records their vocals in the bathroom! The inventive sonics on all of his productions are really something - besides the aforementioned bands, also check out his work on the Low-album Drums and Guns, it's an amazing headphone experience.

These days, a new record I really adore is the latest album by Neil Young which has the beautiful title Le Noise. It was produced by another sonic master, Daniel Lanois, who has some very interesting thoughts on the record and on sound generally - check out this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrbp9Tv9tHw

I also need to mention Brian Eno and Howie B as two sources of inspiration. But there's so much great stuff out there and a lot of the names mentioned in earlier posts on this page are amazing!

  • Yes. Rave Fridmann pushes the Lips hard... But creates magnificent worlds. I haven't listened to Low for a while now. Might do so tomorrow.
    – Kurt Human
    Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 23:41
  • HaHa, I kept scrolling, and scrolling, looking for Dave Fridmann. It was Yoshimi Battle the Pink Robots that made me want to study sound.
    – Auddity
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 1:45

Burial's work sounds unique and deeply atmospheric. Also Ben Frost's "By the throat". And I'm throwing in Tomas Dvorak's "Machinarium" OST, full of nice little details.

  • OMG, how could I have left out Ben Frost? His "Theory of Machines" LP is also rgeat, but the sounds on "By The Throat" just might give you nightmares. Essential, overlooked stuff. Commented Sep 23, 2010 at 15:53

I came across the following artist (Soncbrat) today and thought about such a topic until I searched and found this. Great thread, and I share the taste of many who already posted here.



If we're talking about composers that have inspired my sound design, I'd have to reach back a little further and say Harry Partch and John Cage for their sheer inventiveness in the acoustic world.

And don't forget Pierre Schaeffer and the developers of Musique Concrete who were pushing the boundaries of sound manipulation well before most of us were born.

And Ennio Morricone...who created new and interesting sounds that by layering instruments together, not to mention a new genre of "western." Also a master at sonic storytelling.

And, of course, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and Hendrix who pushed pop music and multi-track recording to a new level.

I strongly second BT (This Binary Universe) as he was the fellow that got me into 
sound design, ambience and superfine editing. How about,

Trifonic: guitarist/programmer for TBU^


Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree: super wall of synths!

Amon Tobin 2nd: Hyper sampling

Flying Lotus 2nd: Ganja Sound Design

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