Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pittsburgh Freeform radio

Between my mass transit commute and my office time during the day in the middle of a nowhere-land, I don't get the chance to sample much terrestrial radio (as it's called) but I do make one exception. I listen to Jason Baldinger aka The Underwater Culprit religiously every Thursday morning through the afternoon. From WRCT in Pittsburgh, he broadcasts his program "Does Your Hometown Really Care?" I even keep an Outlook reminder calendar pop-up to make me drop what I'm doing and tune in online.

The reason that it's so important to me is that it's one of the few vestiges of great free form radio out there (along with WFMU). The reason that I treasure such things is that we live in a time when freeform radio has gone the way of vinyl- it's still alive but treasured by a smaller, cult audience. There's tons of stations on satellite radio but they're almost all genrefied to the point of covering micro-styles. FM freeform radio was a great staple of the late 60's and 70's, jumping around different styles of music and breaking down barriers, but since music stations are getting crowded out by talk radio and news, it's getting harder and harder to find. And just spinning anything randomly doesn't make a great station unless you're a fan of the Jack format (I'm not).

Baldinger's show is special because like all great DJ's, it reflects his sensibility. In his case, it's wonderfully schizo. Or if you like, as a friend gave me a backhanded compliment once, "you have good taste by default since you listen to so much music" (meaning that SOME of it has to be good). A typical "Hometown" show will include healthy doses of alt-country, noise terror, underground hip-hop, R&B, odd world music, funk, garage rock... In other words, the only thing you can be sure of is that you can't be sure of what's coming next, which is what great freeform radio is about. But instead of being a mess, there's some kind of logic or sensibility going on to his madness. For some reason, all the disparate songs work together side by side. Rarely will you turn him off in disgust- more likely, you'll scramble to check his playlist to figure out who you just heard.

He's on right now as I'm typing this so click the link above and see for yourself. Or if it's not Thursday, just mark your calendar to remind yourself next week. He'll take your ears somewhere wonderfully unexpected.


Anonymous James said...

Sun Ra logo? Helium, Van Morrison and the Chairmen of the Board? I'm sold. I wish I could listen to online radio at work, though (it's not permitted in this office...)

5:29 PM  

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