Shiver me timbers, there’s a nugget of silver in the Frequency Modulation band that the authorities don’t want us to hear.
Poking around in the FM band in the car this evening I stumbled upon Radio Frequency. It had all the hallmarks of a pirate station: slightly ropey transmitter signal nestled between two legit stations; excitable DJ who babbled random phrases like “this is goin’ out to the 732 massive” over the tracks; and grimy music that none of the squeaky clone-a-stations (including Radio 1) will touch for a few years.
And you know what: it was terrific.
Besides that feeling of half-expecting the local constabulary to pull me over for enjoying something unsanctioned (or even just enjoying something!) I haven’t felt as excited about urban music in close to a decade. It’s that same euphoria as when I discovered di.fm and could actually listen to cutting edge music that will be sanitized over five or six years into the crap that is pumped to the airwaves by all the other stations under the guise of “new music”.
Sure there were duffers in the Radio Frequency set. Sure the mixes were sometimes rough. But the sheer energy and no-holds-barred experimentation was utterly refreshing, and gave me a renewed appreciation for (in this case) grassroots dubstep, which has become staid and rather predictable in the mainstream within a very short time span [it’s just a shame the music from the DJ duo themselves Vital Techniques is barely above average].
I notice on the website that the station had a run-in with Ofcom in 2010 and were fined a considerable sum of money for operating illegally. Since I picked up the broadcast, I presume they are back on the air — the legality of which is not evident from the pretty crummy website — but I intend to tune in as often as I can because governments and the record industry hate anything this good that demonstrates musical innovation.
If I wasn’t considerably outside their target demographic, I might have offered my services — even if it’s just fixing that crappy website — because being part of something that celebrates musical diversity instead of musical formulaism is my kinda gig.