Saturday, March 03, 2007

I Rant, Then We All Save Resonance FM

In a break from normal service, I am posting today to highlight the current plight of the excellent Resonance FM. For those of you that don’t know, it’s London’s self-styled “first radio art station”, which I guess means it caters for the more avant-garde amongst us, but it is utterly essential for anyone who still believes in radio as a means for challenging ear holes with unexpected sounds and discovering bands, artists and club nights you otherwise wouldn’t. It goes out on 104.4FM, which you’ll only be able to pick up if you live in London, but there are loads of ways to listen to it online – mp3, OGG or Real Audio streaming, plus there is a variety of podcasts to download. More info can be found here. If you’re not sure what to expect, in the words of the station itself, it features programmes made by musicians, artists and critics who represent the diversity of London’s arts scenes, with regular weekly contributions from nearly two hundred musicians, artists, thinkers, critics, activists and instigators.

Last Thursday's listings provide an excellent snapshot into what’s on offer – kicking off with Counter Culture Radio hosted by employees of Rough Trade record shops, the day also features a folk music hour, the works of William Blake read by the station’s resident actor, a teenage take on the world from Seth and George, an hour of microtonal music in the Clear Spot slot, Wire magazine’s Adventures in Modern Music, the awesome Soul Jazz Records with an hour of eclectic wonder and a celebration of the comic 2000AD. The whole shebang comes to close with a show consisting solely of signal-to-noise ratio, frequency and aesthetic radio art tests. Erm, OK. Coldcut’s seminal Solid Steel radio show also has a home here and if that’s not enough to convince you it’s worth saving, consider this...

...ever since the death of John Peel, it’s been harder and harder to defend Radio 1’s stance concerning new music. It’s original plan to replace Peel with three DJ’s under the 1 Music banner has ended up with Huw Stephens, Ras Kwame and Rob Da Bank being shunted into proper graveyard slots (with Huw admirably playing predominantly unsigned music), and Colin Bloody Murray occupying the 10pm slot that, back in the day, Peel just about clung onto. Colin Murray gets on my tits, but if he concentrated on playing music, that wouldn’t matter. Of course he doesn’t, he’s a careerist personality (coming to your screens on Celebrity Fame Academy this weekend!) and the music comes second to his ego. There’s also a token hour-long strand which goes under the misnomer, “In New Music We Trust”, which should be called “In New Music We Are Deeply Suspicious So We’ll Keep On Isolating It Until It All Dies And We Can Just Play Records By The Kooks Without Having To Feel Guilty About Doing So”.

Despite becoming increasingly marginalised before his death, it was as if John gave off a vital force field, which protected Radio 1 from slipping into utter banality, but now he’s gone the inevitable has happened, and it is fast becoming a worthless piece of crap. A friend of mine summed it all up brilliantly thus - “Remember about 1994 time when John Peel was on Radio 1 Saturday teatimes, and Craig Scanlon out of the Fall used to ring in the football scores each week and then he basically carried on playing yodelling, minimal bedroom techno and Japanese hardcore as normal? Well I reckon we're at the exact opposite state of affairs now. If I were to sum up radio experience in 2007 I would say: Vernon Kaye playing Kasabian.”

As if all this weren’t bad enough, Radio 3 have recently dropped Mixing It from their schedules after over 16 years. There were no explanations, the new controller at Radio 3 just decided to shelve it, with no plans to bring it back any time soon. The BBC didn’t even mention the fact that the show was ending in any publicity material; it wanted it to slide out of the schedules with a whimper. They even had a Senior Producer sitting in on the final show, presumably to make sure the stalwart presenting duo of Robert Sandall and Mark Russell didn’t say anything controversial about their demise. The final show went out on February 9th 2007, though it has recently been picked up by Resonance FM, which is another reason to try to save the station.

The death of Mixing It is another prime example of the BBC pushing fringe music even further to the fringes. If it was a purely commercial organisation, you could maybe understand decisions like this, but it’s not, it’s funded by public money and they seem to be making the decision for us that we no longer care about being aurally challenged and just want to listen to Lily Allen and the Kaiser Chiefs 24-7. I guess they are labouring under the illusion that digital stations are filling the void, but admirable as 6 Music is, it’s the same old crowd, playing ostensibly the same music, but with more of an emphasis to the musical archives, and not the cutting-edge. There’s plenty of shows and DJ’s with merit, but it’s not enough.

Anyway, this didn’t set out be a rant against the BBC (though it was very therapeutic to get it off my chest!), it was intended as a piece to highlight the fact that Resonance FM are facing a very serious threat of going under and if you care at all, you can do something to help. You can donate money to the cause in a variety of ways detailed here. They have so far raised nearly £10,000, but they need at least £60,000, which will still only cover about a quarter of the amount needed to keep the station going for the next year. There are lots of fundraising events going on, which you can read about here here, including one in the pipeline to be organised by Resonance patron Stewart Lee and fellow comedian Daniel Kitson. And if none of that tickles your fancy, and you want to be able to hold something tangible as a reward for parting with your hard earned cash, head to the shop where you can buy stuff, including various CD’s, books and items of clothing. Donate what you can, if you want to, or at the very least, tune in at some point to see what you could soon be missing out on.