Ultraísta reveals Nigel Godrich’s influence on Radiohead & his star-making ability

The accomplished Nigel Godrich came to San Francisco Monday night to perform at the very undersold Independent with his new 3-piece synth & loop heavy group Ultraísta. Godrich has produced every Radiohead album since OK Computer and tours with the group as their unofficial 6th member. He’s also in Thom York’s side project, Atoms for Peace, along with Ultraísta drummer Joey Waronker, and has produced albums for U2, Pavement, Paul McCartney, amongst others. His work with Ultraísta continues the musical sound he’s developed with Thom Yorke over the last 5 years, but his biggest accomplishment with his new group is recruiting newcomer Laura Bettinson.

Bettinson exudes a confidence and swagger that is youthful and real, and her hypnotic voice plays as an instrument, much like Thom Yorke’s, and it matches her strikingly attractive look. But, the night was not perfect by any means. Upon the first notes of the night, Nigel had to abort the opening song due to a technical issue. They pleaded for 3 minutes, left the stage, and restarted. They came out to 100, maybe 150 people total. The projector, which plays as the one and only (and extremely effective) visual effect, went off kilter for the first couple songs. You could tell there was a slight bit of frustration with Bettinson.

After a lukewarm applause, or the fact that not many turned out the night of a Giant’s pennant clinching game, a presidential debate & pouring rain, she said “It’s very quiet. It’s like playing in someone’s living room.” That got a certain perturbed audience response, but she replied “It’s not a bad thing!” Bettingson’s subtle frustration didn’t really matter, as her stage presence, sex appeal and technical proficiency with her vocals & dexterity in looping them packaged well.

Ultraísta has no overhead lighting in their live show, and they defer to a stage-facing projector that exhibits flat light, and this replicates their music videos. They project a technicolor kaleidoscope of drenched light directly onto Bettingson, and it makes for a washed out yet very cinematic aesthetic. But the lighting effect ultimately starts to feel familiar as you adjust to it, and it lines up with the repetition of the vocal loops, synth & rhythm. It all adds up to a live musical experience that puts you into a trance.

VIDEO: Ultraísta ended their set with a drawn out version of “Easier.”

This repetitious formula is one that reflect’s Thom York’s solo project The Eraser and the most recent Radiohead album The King of Limbs, and it reveals Nigel Godrich’s influence on Thom Yorke and the gang.

Ultimately Ultraísta is a band with much potential. They played a 7 or 8 song set that wasn’t over an hour. It seemed they didn’t play a full show since there weren’t many people present, and because they didn’t get a huge reaction throughout the night. But Ultraísta has a leg up with Nigel Godrich on board leading the ship; it ensures they can secure venues and people will usually come. But to get bigger, they need to make the people that do come to see them perform leave the show with a sense of discovery, and then feel the need to tell their friends. This didn’t exactly happen on Monday night, but the group most likely could ‘wow’ their audience on a different night.

Two things were confirmed watching Ultraísta’s set: Nigel Godrich is the influence we all think he is on Radiohead, and Laura Bettinson is a star in the making, with or without Ultraísta.


  1. Damn that girl is HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Though the atmosphere and attendance lacked, I thought the music made up for it 10 fold. Bettinson was a truly muse-like figure, singing eloquently and gyrating thoughtfully.
    I wondered if this would go over well in a club like Low End Theory or Popscene as opposed to a venue.
    Good times

    • Agreed Kevin – The music more than made up for the lack of attendance/atmosphere. It was so easy to close your eyes, drift away and then open them back up to a palate of colors drenching the group

Leave a Reply