Long before the internet attracted us all to the romance of the great unknown, radio ruled the waves. The airy wisps of its influence are embedded in British cultural consciousness. The Radio 4 theme, Steve Wright In The Afternoon, groaning at the Chris Moyles show over your cornflakes – radio may seem an old fashioned, even out-dated medium, associated with continuity and the same familiar voices. But, for a long time radio was also at the cutting edge of new music, represented most powerfully by the tradition of the late, great John Peel. The rise of the internet has strengthened this tradition, not undermined it. Online radio is providing listeners with access to stations all over the world and to an infinitely vaster array of new sounds. This increasing variety may seem in keeping with the modern obsession with choice and demand-driven media, and to a certain extent it is. Radio, however, is unlike the YouTubes of this world where you simply type in the song you want and are provided with it immediately. The beauty of a radio show is that, once you’ve made the decision to tune in, you are guided by a personal touch. To download a band’s songs, or look them up on MySpace, you have to have heard of them first; radio still offers that kick of being introduced to something you’ve never encountered. It plays a crucial role in providing a way through for non-mainstream, anti-commercial or overseas music; in the process offering the listener an opportunity to discover new and interesting sounds. At a time when new bands are getting pushed through faster than their pin badges can be made, radio can encourage us to look backwards as well as forwards. When all is transitory, go transistory. So this week, we present some of our contributors’ choice transmissions.

CBS.nu
Straight out of The Hague comes the Cybernetic Broadcasting System, devised by i-f of 'Space Invaders are Smoking Grass' fame. All day it blazes out unrelenting electronic sugar rushes and eurovision winners from a dystopian future/unrealised past. Expect absurd italodisco classics with badly sung English, sprawling electronic prog epics (although no avant-garde bullshit, unless it's a concept song about martians) and soundbites from b-movies with mention of humans replaced by ROBOTS ("he's not a human - HE'S A MACHINE!"). All classics and parallel dimension numbers ones that you'd be gagging to loathe if it was remotely popular, but the fact is no-one has the balls to make music like this anymore so it's completely fine to turn it up and pretend you're Phil Oakley.

PANDORA
Pandora.com is trying to change the way we listen to music. As part of the Music Genome Project, where every song is categorised on 400 different aspects such as tonality, syncopation and vocal harmonies, Pandora uses this analysis to select recommendations for what you should listen to. Starting with one of your favourite songs or artists, Pandora builds up a database of similar songs and streams them as a radio station. You can hone in on your own sound by rating each song it plays to update its database, and you can have different ‘stations’ for every mood you’re in. It’s an impressive way to listen to new music you like, but the only catch is that copyright limits its use to America. Enter any valid zip code and you escape notice...

1 UNSIGNED
New Artists; by the time you’ve heard of them, they’ve already toured the country and already boast a growing fanbase of which you are only one miniscule member. There seems to be no way to discover hidden gems and keep them to yourself, right? No longer. Every week, on Radio 1, the best local unsigned music from a variety of different shows - Rob Da Bank (Leftfield/folksie, Thurs), Huw Stephens (Indie/punkTues), Ras Kwame (dubstep/grime, Weds) and Fergie (underground dance, Fri) - is collated into a nifty little podcast. To give you an idea: in the last instalment, Stephens (probably the best-known out of the four) travelled to the Netherlands’ Eurosonic Festival and presented tracks from bands like Zea, Persil and Da Wunderlust; and he has brought to light such London bands as Tinpots, The Duloks and Girls That Scratch.

ARROW
Arrow is an extended acronym for All Rock and Roll Oldies, and it does just what it says on the tin. You’ll find it nestled in airwaves at 675 AM; if you want classic rock, tune in and drop out. It's a Dutch station, with all the usual inter-song drivel from faces probably best suited to radio, but with one little perk: the vast majority of us on this island won't have a bloody clue what they're saying. Spending an hour in the company of Arrow’s airwaves is like pretending to be your parents when they were your age. But kind of middle-aged at the same time. So that leaves those of us listening from behind the wheel to sit back, perhaps not relax (apparently there are laws against that in this country) and let those groovy vibes take us on a long strange trip through the best of the 60's and 70's. Holland's given us the sex and drugs, now here's their rock n' roll.

LATE JUNCTION
As you might expect from the comfortingly eccentric Radio 3, Late Junction is less of a dive into the great unknown, more of a gentle sliding into a bath of obscurity, Late Junction provides its listeners with an eclectic and challenging schedule that is still somehow appropriate for bed time. Broadly speaking, the music broadcast falls into the categories of modern classical, electronic, folk, jazz, world and early; in reality, while the tracks are this diverse, there is still consistency in the form of the mellow atmosphere of the show, thanks to the laidback presenters and the strangely soothing quality of the music. Tracks range from dissonant madrigals by sixteenth century murderer Gesualdo de Venosa to the latest offering by harp-playing pixie Joanna Newsom to plenty of excellent stuff I’ve never heard of and never will again except on this show.

WFMU.org
The holy grail of internet radio for all hipsters and indie kids. Completely freeform (no playlists!) and completely free of adverts this is just about the most perfect internet radio station you'll find, though it’s from across the pond, it has its finger on the pulse of British music. Just switching on one morning in the summer of 2005 I heard The Long Blondes when they'd barely hit British radio and heard some rare Kenickie b-side or another (Michael Goodstein's anglophilia is a great introduction, in spite of his current absence) and a quick search for your favourite band should put you onto any other show that you'll probably find a tonne of other stuff you like from. The station is just a musical sprawl with almost nothing neglected, the website is something to immerse yourself in and the blog will point you to whatever is the talk of New York right now.

DANDELION
Dandelionradio.com aims to fill the void in independent music left by John Peel’s death. To their great credit they manage to follow in Peel’s footsteps although fall short of filling his large, BBC-backed shoes. Dandelion continues, in an engaging and endearing fashion, Peel’s true fanship conveyed by people who loved his unassuming style, such as Rachael Neiman co-founder of Cherryade records and winner of Radio 1 Huw Stephen’s DIY label of the year award. Presenters create shows, which rotate throughout the month, based only upon the music they love; no playlists. This month they offer a special programme celebrating 10 years of important independent label Shifty Disco. Peel’s legendary Festive Fifty baton was also handed to the station in December. Dandelion is an alternative to the mainstream working with it to showcase great music - just as Peel would have liked it.

CHICKS & CARS
Started from an all-male laundry room over 40 years ago, the University of California’s freeform radio station produces some weird and wonderful sounds to dig throughout the night, accessible at kdvs.org. The pick of the lot is undoubtedly Megan’s Chicks & Cars, a collection of psych, garage punk and rare sixties folk. Her taste reigns supreme, and usually six or seven songs go by before she introduces the next set. No ads, no interviews, just one hot-rod Lincoln ride away from today.

KCEA.org
If you like the sound of retro radio, KCEA.org is a proper Swing Era station in the States that streams through iTunes as well as Windows. Besides the awesome 30s and 40s recordings, there's the occasional radio story from the period, although be warned - Wednesday night shows tend to revolve around local amateur sports features.

Contributors: Sam Blatherwick; Darshan Brahmbhatt; Richard Braude; Rhiannon Easterbrook; Quinby Frey; Katherine Godfrey; Salman Shaheen

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