Not only are non-commercial radio stations a great way to discover new music, they're also a vital asset to giving individuals a platform to share their voice and developing a sense of community. In this month's collaborative blog, members of the collective share their favorite radio stations that provide the best playlists and make them feel a part of a bigger community through music.
Station: NTS Radio
Location: London, Manchester, Los Angeles
Stream online: https://www.nts.live/
I used to think radio was garbage. When I drove around my hometown Querétaro and decided to give radio stations another opportunity, I turned off the stereo disappointed. I was tired of hearing the same songs I heard when I went to a shopping mall or to a college party. The only station I enjoyed from time to time was the university station. However, the programs I was interested in aired late at night, and the transmission quality was very uneven.
One of my friends, whose musical recommendations I always accept with pleasure, gave me an unusual suggestion one day. He did an internship in London, where he discovered NTS radio. He formed a habit of listening to the “Do You! Breakfast Show” aired every morning before going to work. He encouraged me to check this program out, claiming that it “saved every morning”.
So one lazy Saturday, waking up late, hungry, and slightly hungover, I reached over to my phone and looked up the show. I went into the archive and chose one of the older transmissions at random.
He was right. It saved my morning.
Grogginess turned itself into excitement as I heard groovy jams ranging from rock n´ roll, R&B, funk, and techno. I enthusiastically grabbed some eggs from my fridge and cooked an omelet with a mix of ingredients as I was lifted up by the good vibes. And then I thought: “Wait! This is the radio!” I was struck by a mini existential moment, one of those where you realize you´ve been wrong about something for a long time.
Excited by the prospect, I explored NTS´s website. The first thing that became evident was the insane breadth of options available. The station showcased its favorite shows in an eclectic grid featuring DJs from all over the world, contemplative photos and bizarre images that foreshadowed psychedelia and mind-bending sounds.
It is to be celebrated how well put together this website is, as it gave me all of the tools to explore its monumental offering of music. The radio station picks give a thoughtfully curated overview of the variety of the music aired. Ever present are the two play buttons that allow you to listen to the two shows being played live at the moment. And both the Explore and Search features are simple and powerful, allowing one to search by genres or by song, satisfying that craving of finding similar sounding music to that one song we can´t get enough of.
If you press play on either the live transmissions or an archived show, the audio player will become docked to the interface without obstructing it, allowing for uninterrupted exploration of the musical promised land. Also, most shows provide a tracklist so saving and referencing songs for later is relatively painless. And no, a lot of the tracks aren't Shazzameable, as they come from LPs found on the dollar bin or exotic recordings from other countries.
This remarkable user experience makes sense as NTS claims the site is “made by music lovers, for music lovers”. And they show it by unashamedly featuring music from contrasting sonic avenues. A very summarized list of available genres includes doom metal, reggaeton, house, video game soundtracks, j-pop, musique concrete, jazz, ambient, dream pop, traditional Indian music, drone, and trap.
NTS launched me into a frenzied state of insatiable musical hunger. It made me realize that every musical genre has its worth and can be supremely enjoyable in the appropriate context. I especially appreciate the site welcomes folkloric music from around the world, which can be difficult to find without the right knowledge.
One of the goals I perceive the station has is trying to achieve is to offer a platform for artists and DJs to promote themselves and their music tastes. There is a clear emphasis on DJ culture, and how a good mix can be a meaningful form of expression, transforming a set of disjointed tracks into an experience.
Take Sega Bodega´s soundtrack series as an example. The first time I listened to one of his sets, I was blown away by how he mixed video game music, classical and spoken word to create a one of a kind journey. At moments, his mixing struck me as something that could be found in a moody passage by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, though seeped in his very distinct style.
Another show that always impresses me is Night Shift, which conveys the wide array of feelings that can surface at night: contemplation, awe, melancholy, intrigue, and fear. The mix of scary ambient passages, dreamy electronic music, and harsh experimental noise carries one through several moods with expertise.
NTS offers many regulars like the ones mentioned before, but they also excel at welcoming DJs, musicians and other types of artists for guest shows. It is delightful to have the opportunity of listening to music that the people I admire and respect enjoy. Figures such as Brian Eno, William Basinski, Wolfgang Tillmans, Dr. Yamashiro (composer of Akira´s soundtrack), Iglooghost, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Autechre, and many more have played guest shows at the radio station.
Speaking of Autechre, NTS offered their platform for the duo to release their newest material, aptly named NTS Sessions. It joins together eight hours of abstract, brain melting, and genre-challenging electronic bleeps, beats, and vibrations. It has become my favorite release of the year so far and I find it exciting that the station is open to promote and release music in unconventional ways.
I don't have enough nice things to say about NTS Radio. It has become a platform I go to either for comfort or adventurous exploration, expanding my knowledge and music tastes in both cases. NTS has had a meaningful and tangible impact in my life, as I believe that the sounds we choose to accompany us in life deeply impact our thoughts and feelings. For me, it is a no-brainer to choose an environment where I can keep my sentiments of curiosity, childlike enthusiasm, and wonder.
Station: KEXP 90.3 FM
Location: Seattle, WA
Stream online: www.kexp.org
KEXP is my go-to station to be educated on new music. The music mix DJs (especially my faves Kevin Cole and Troy Nelson) curate the most intelligent and daring blend of genres and new independent music, giving voice to artists of all backgrounds. The station also has an impressive array of in-studio sessions posted on their YouTube channel accompanied with thoughtful interview questions, a binge-worthy way to discover local and international bands. Above all, this station is consistently so thoughtful with their specialty programming. They’ve done countdowns of every Sub Pop release to celebrate the label’s 30th anniversary, day-long tributes to artists who have passed away, programs celebrating refugee music in reaction to the political climate, and so much more. Seattle is known to have one of the most thriving music scenes in the country, and we’re all lucky enough that through KEXP we can get a glimpse of that wherever we are in the world.
Station: KXCI 91.3 FM
Location: Tucson, AZ
Stream online: www.kxci.org
Located in the center of downtown Tucson, KXCI community radio gives locals of the old pueblo a platform to share their voice and bring together the communities of southern Arizona. While the daytime programming honestly plays it a little too safe and leans heavily on contemporary Americana stuff that old-time Tucsonans can’t seem to live without, the real gems can be heard in the evening and late-night hours when DJs get a little more experimental. Here are a list of my top recommended programs:
Blues Unlimited - Wednesdays, 12 am - 2:30 am. This is by far one of the most thoroughly researched, detailed and educational radio shows I’ve ever heard. DJ Sleepy Boy Hawkins (alter-ego of scholar and blues historian Steve Franz) takes you on a two-hour guided journey through blues history, taking on various niche subjects and particular movements in each episode. This show fittingly airs in the late night hours, perfect for driving home after a long closing shift at your job and finding solace in some old blues recordings. You can also check out his previous recordings on his podcast.
Kidd Squidd’s Mystery Jukebox - Saturdays, 2 - 5 pm. Kidd Squidd represents everything I love about non-commercial radio. Every week he presents a new music topic and delves in the the whole history and culture surrounding that theme (much like T&E’s monthly collab blogs!). His talk breaks give you something you can’t get from Spotify or Pandora. You that feeling that you’re shootin’ the shit with an old friend, bonding over some shared music and evolving your musical taste and knowledge with someone you trust.
Rez Radio - Saturdays, 12 am - 2 am. Native American Rock, Rap & Reggae and Waila Music from the Tohono O’odam nation. Representing the true local music of southern AZ! The talk breaks are all mostly shout out requests, which are both ridiculous and incredibly entertaining at the same time. It’s a bonus for your drive home on Saturday night when you wanna holler via a shout-out to your friends also heading back home after your night out.
Chicano Connection - Wednesdays, 6 - 8 pm. Everything chicano you’d ever want to hear and more. Featuring música norteña, rancheras, Latin folk, oldies, soul, jazz, etc. A great lesson into the deep cuts of Latin music.
Rasta Riddims - Sundays, 9 - 11 pm. My man Mohammed bringing you the hottest reggae jams! Not much else to say that if you love reggae or dancehall (and I mean the good stuff...not like, Drake-ified fake Caribbean music), then you’ll love this show.
Dead Air - Sundays, 6 - 9 pm. All Grateful Dead and jam bands. Not gonna lie, I used to seriously despite jam bands, but after driving home to this show every Sunday I am a full on Deadhead convert. Praise!
Electric Feel/Under Surveillance - Fridays, 8 pm - 12 am. Fresh electronic mixes DJed live every Friday night. A group of DJs experimental everything in underground electronica, acid house, and more. A guaranteed hype way to start off your weekend.
Aside from their evening programming, KXCI's strength lies in their mini-programs, which are ~5 min pre-recorded programs that are played throughout the week. There's A Poet's Moment, which gives a platform to a local poet to recite one of their own works. Mn Huna follows the story of Houda, an 18-year old Syrian refugee in discussing her resettlement in Tucson. And last but not least, there's the true treasure of the Tucson community, Growing Native with Petey Mesquitey. Every week since 1992, we've all gotten to hear Petey share stories, poems, or songs about the beautiful flora, fauna, family and beauty of living in southern Arizona. This show constantly reminds me why I love to call Tucson my home.
Station: KAMP Student Radio
Location: Tucson, AZ
Stream online: kamp.arizona.edu
I have to give a special shout out to my college radio station, KAMP Student Radio. It's here where I met about 90% of the Trial and Error Collective crew (aka my family), and my passion for radio broadcasting. There's not much I can say about the programming for now as it changes every semester with the student's schedules, but you're always guaranteed to hear some real love and soul every time you tune in. The best part about college radio is there is no pretentiousness behind it. There aren't any marketing gimmicks, no competition for listeners, you're just listening to a student sharing and finding solace in their favorite music with you with you for an hour time slot. I owe almost all my music knowledge to my KAMP family, and suggest not only to tune in to KAMP but to check out your local college radio station as well and see what students in your community are eager to share.
Station: KDVS 90.3 FM
Location: Davis, CA
Stream online: https://kdvs.org/programming/listen-now/
While driving through the outskirts of Sacramento for work one morning a few months ago, I lost reception on the mainstream rock station that I had on the radio. I scanned through the stations hoping to come across a classic rock or hip-hop station, but most stations already had their cheesy morning shows underway. Not good. I needed music, dammit, and I was desperately looking for something - anything - that wasn’t one of the endless modern country, ranchera, or Christian stations that flood California’s Central Valley.
And that’s when I came across a station spinning Jesus and the Dinosaurs, a wonderful local Latinx garage punk band with serious Stooges vibes. Later, they continued playing punk and hardcore from young, up-and-coming bands from all over Northern and Central California. I immediately made note of the FM frequency in my rental car and told myself to save it on my presets once I got back to my own car. This was my first introduction to KDVS.
Broadcasting out of the UC Davis campus, KDVS is sure to strike a chord with many of Trial and Error Collective’s writers and readers who have some connection to another certain student radio station in Tucson. While I happened across a local punk program on that fateful morning, KDVS features a freeform programming format that lets each DJ call the shots within their featured time slot. You could stumble across EDM, jazz, dancehall, surf music, cowpunk, funk, mathcore, and talk radio on any given hour and day that you decide to listen in. And just looking at their schedule grid, you realize that these kids seriously work. I remember DJing for KAMP during the dreaded 2 to 6 AM slot on the annual College Radio Day - the one day a year when we featured live broadcasts for 24 straight hours with no robo-DJ. KDVS does this every single day. At the time of this writing there are no free time slots, and some of these shows broadcast at ungodly hours of the morning, seven days a week. It’s also mid-July. School’s been out for summer for a while now. I’m finishing writing this at 11 PM on a Saturday night and a DJ just came on the air. That’s serious dedication for college students.
I’d expect the schedule to change when the fall quarter starts up, but I’ll make recommendations based on my favorite show names and time slot gifs as seen on their schedule grid while I’m writing this (all times Pacific):
Radio Wadada (Reggae; Sundays 1-3 PM)
7-10 PM: A Face for Radio (Early 80's R&B, 60's, 70's world rock)
4 - 6 AM: Existential Dread in the Suburbs (Experimental Rock, Indie Rock, Math Rock, Post Hardcore, Post Punk, Post Rock, Psych)
2:30 - 4:30 PM: The Modern Age (Eclectic)
10 PM - 12 AM: he hates music he loves noise (Borecore, Impressionistic Soundscapes, Notmusic, Old Music, Retirement House, Skunch)
6 - 8 PM: Trash Tank (Cowpunk, Eat Beef Jerky To, Ghost Stuff, Microwave Groove, Songs To Munch To, Staring Contest Music, Tofucore)
8 - 10 PM: Revenge of the Handlebar Mustache & Airwave Pollution (Funk, Fuzz, Garage, Mathrock, Noiserock, Psych, Punk, Rock, Soul)
2 - 4 AM: Summer Syncopation (hip-hop, instrumental, jazz)
10:30 AM - 12 PM: call ur mom (Eclectic)
1 - 2:30 PM: Anyway, Here’s Wonderwall (Bedroom Pop, Chillwave, Folk, Good Vibes, Music To Cry To, Pop Punk, Space Jam, Twee Pop, with a different cover or remix of Wonderwall each week)
2 - 4 PM: Groove Theory (Funk; 80s electro boogie; Soul & Breaks; R&B; Disco, Italo Disco)
9 PM - 12 AM: Huge Bummer (Indie, Folk, Punk)
Station: Radio Active 88.6FM
Location: Wellington, NZ
Stream Online: http://www.radioactive.fm/
I traveled New Zealand the first half of 2018 and was turned on to RadioActive by a friend in Wellington. The station started as a Victoria University student radio station in 1977 and claims to be the first station to commence 24/7 online broadcasting. Seems a bold claim, but could be true based solely on the fact that New Zealand is at the beginning of the date line.
It’s become one of my go-to online radio streams because of its eclectic variety of shows. Nowadays it’s run by the RadioActive Charitable Trust and over 80 volunteer DJs. It’s got a great community feel and I’m never quite sure what I’m going to hear. One of my favorite programs is The Roots and Culture show (Sunday 4-7pm), three hours of Reggae roots and dub. My buddy and I would cruise the streets of Wellington and Radioactive would provide the perfect soundtrack no matter what time of day. I fondly recall hanging out late at night in the living room and marveling at the DJs random electro mix (wish I knew the show for that one).
Station: KBGA-89.9 FM
Location: Missoula, MT
Stream Online: www.kbga.org
KBGA is the college/community radio station run out of the University of Montana in Missoula, MT. Searching out the local radio stations is one of my routines in moving to a new place. I lived in Montana for one year and almost immediately tried to get involved with this station. It was quite easy and if you had a couple spare hours a week you could sneak right in and become a DJ. The shows were run by everyone from long-time radio veterans spinning vinyl to students, and town newcomers. One of my favorite shows is Radio Latino, Thursday 12-2pm. Ninja Mike spins tunes and speaks Spanish. It’s great!
Community radio provides such a unique way to tune into what is going on locally in a place. It provides a space for anyone in the community to share a little piece of themselves and therefore give a little snapshot of what is going on under the surface. Music can be som personal and it’s great when people get to express that to any ears that may listen.
Station: Psycho Radio
Location: maybe Germany?
Stream: psychoradio.org (RIP)
Unfortunately I no longer think this radio station exists...however it’s played such a role inmy life the past years that I must mention it. PsychoRadio.org was a Drum&Bass/RagaJungle/TechHouse pirateradio station that may have been German? It’s a shame the web address no longer works. I could rely of PsychoRadio.org to always be there to be my constant, unending supply of Jungle/DnB streaming whether I was making breakfast, cleaning house or hanging out. It also had this amazing jingle that would play whenever you begun streaming. Perhaps someday it will come back but until then... Rest in Power PsychoRadio.org...wherever you are...
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