Big Issue Vendor

Robin Ince: In praise of Resonance FM’s thrillingly unpredictable racket

From dark synth to extreme metal and the rest, the underdog station's varied music shares a similar quality of engagement

I sheltered from the rain a few weeks ago by popping into a small studio near London Bridge to talk comic books. With steam rising from my knees, we discussed The Beezer, 2000AD and the work of Alan Moore for Alex Fitch’s Panel Borders – a regular broadcast on Resonance FM.

I remain perturbed by the number of people who are unaware of this idiosyncratic adventure in a multitude of sounds. In the last week, I’ve listed to dark synth, extreme metal and Clive Dunn and John Le Mesurier duetting on a song about how you can’t get much for a pound nowadays.

The musical choices veer from and around the sounds similar to The Velvet Underground, John Cage and some metal bins filled with wooden clogs being thrown down a lengthy spiral fire escape, which I think is a good thing (the variety of sounds, not dustbin hooliganism).

A Duck in a Tree, curated by :zoviet*france, a collective of musicians who have been creating work for 40 years, describes its output as “genre-refusing recordings” and that is true of many of Resonance’s programmes, most of which are easily available on Mixcloud.


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If you miss hearing your elders declaring, “What is that awful racket you’re listening to?”, this is the place to come to incite them anew. You will also find your elders here on Calling All Pensioners, the creation of the Deptford Action Group for the Elderly, a show that promises to bring you happiness and create tears of joy. The most recent show combined a discussion on keeping an eye on Boris Johnson’s election promise to maintain the free TV licence for the over-75s with some jaunty dance tunes of the 1950s. Those who are unable to physically drop in to their daily “house of joy” centre in Deptford (10am-1pm), can still enjoy their company from home. Most of the music shows have limited DJ intervention, like Flora Pitrolo on A Colder Consciousness, it is the hushed voice of a covert accomplice.

Those who admire Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Ghosteen, a mesmerising work that approaches shamanism in the power of the spell it casts on you, will find that much of the music highlighted by Resonance has a similar quality of engagement. Then, just when you think you are lost in the dreamwork, you can slap yourself around the chops with some extreme metal from the Drones of Hell show. My own musical peccadilloes are usually best served by The Band of Holy Joy’s show Bad Punk. They recently gave their hour to a session from [London experimental group] Rutger Hauser. Sure, there’s a reason for verse, chorus and middle eight, but sometimes it is good to listen to something increasingly unpredictable. Occasionally I am unsure if my laptop is short-circuiting or if all has turned to silence, and so I am drawn in, and as my ear reaches the speaker I will find a hint of percussion and hastily draw back. Resonance has its unlit firework moments, and you can’t be sure when the music will explode.;