Some days you search and search for the sound of Stanley Unwin talking gobbledegook with a free-jazz score underneath it and, just when you are about to throw up your arms in furious surrender, you remember Resonance FM exists and that somewhere, in this Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse of idiosyncratic cacophonies, there will be a crate containing just that. The fun is opening all the other crates on your way to it, the ones rumbling with death metal, hefty-wax cylinders faintly holding on to falsetto-sung songs about romantic ploughmen and 1980s video game soundtracks. I continue to write about Resonance here because I am still befuddled by the number of people who would adore it yet still do not know of its existence.
This week’s noises included witchcraft, fairground organs and slurred techno. I needed it after repeated mini-cab journeys where the smooth choices of the surgically sterile radio stations that broadcast in the hope of keeping the B-roads calm delivered soft pop of the Eighties, Jennifer Rush for the rush hour and Jane Wiedlin being way too frenetic, risking a pile-up of JG Ballard-eroticised proportions.
Resonance is a radio station of true variety, and its shows and podcasts are hosted by people whose lack of professional etiquette behind the microphone, if they remember to sit with it in front of them, is more than made up for by the joy they clearly have in broadcasting the noises they love and talking to people who inspire or intrigue them. Norman Druker, sitting in for DJ Ritu as host for A World in London, promised the sounds of Brazil and Senegal and a good time in the studio with birds, lions and conch shells at the same time as prematurely quizzing a guest who was still some way from proper amplification.
Wavelength was where I found Unwin rubbing octaves with free jazz. I have always delighted in the loveableness of spoken Unwinese and I am increasingly determined to embrace free jazz wholeheartedly as it will make me more opaque and create an illusion of strange depth where none truly exists. The most recent edition of Devil’s Dancers was inspired by the synthesizer soundtracks that accompanied Eighties video games, though NinaKehagia introduced all manner of synthesized sounds created by real and fictional musicians.
“It’s where I found Stanley Unwin rubbing octaves with free jazz…”
Other highlights of November – much of Resonance’s output being monthly rather than weekly – included Dig That Treasure, where William Hall played a fairground version of Tulips from Amsterdam before a sublime Vashti Bunyan song complete with the surface noise of vinyl, just as John Peel would have wanted. Gate Kicks, a show presented and produced by people with learning difficulties at Gate Art Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London, played part two of an uncanny Halloween soundtrack while Hoenn Sound played 45rpm techno records at 33rpm, something else that Peel may well have appreciated.
Travelling around the UK, I sometimes shrug resignedly as I see the repeated programming of tribute acts replicating your favourite band of 40 years ago. They are programmed because they sell. Fear of disappointment in acts of uncertainty means people prefer to play safe with their money; they want to know they’ll get Hotel California or Dancing Queen. Resonance offers hours and hours of uncertainty and I like it, especially as the lion playing a conch shell and Congolese keyboardists playing death metal on home-manufactured instruments may not be visiting my local playhouse soon.