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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Altrok 90.5 HD2 Gets A Brand New Set Of Streams

At Altrok 90.5 HD2, we've suddenly got a whole new set of streams, mostly because our brand spanking new streaming server got set up a bit early, and we wanted to take advantage of it as soon as we could. We're slowly updating all the existing links, but the hurricane's slowing us down a bit. (Hurricanes, go fig.)

So here's your direct links for Altrok 90.5 Radio online...
Use 'em in good health, and use 'em often - in addition to providing fine Modern Rock entertainment, they're a great way for you to let us know you're out there. (Not you specifically, but we at least know how many people are listening online...) As always, your support is greatly appreciated.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bring the Noise, Please

Music is an almost infinite landscape of creative opportunity. The possibilities of sounds and combinations of are all but unlimited, and much less so now given the power of technology. Even within the very narrow scope of pop music, and within that rock music, the variety of content goes on and on, decade after decade. Just like snow flakes, no two compositions are ever the same. Well worn and highly straight- jacketed sub genres like punk can still be made to sound fresh, even after almost 40 years.

But in a broader context, the pop music landscape is pretty tightly structured. Guitar, bass, drums, voice, verse chorus verse bridge chorus. And that's it. A bit of harmony, an irresistible melody and a hook, and you're writing songs for Britney Spears. Everything is nice and pretty.

A number of years back I discovered what I like to call my aural palette cleansers. These are bands/songs/genres that have successfully explored and exploited the less traditional music pathways. And what I found was that after long periods of ear candy, my ears and brain craved for something completely inharmonious, and less than soothing. I needed to hear noisy, abrasive compositions, most of which didn't feature guitars or piano, the mainstays of most pop music from punk to country.

These bands rely heavily on electronica of one form or another, and are more sonically focused than "song" focused. I find that the artificial, or unnatural sonics, not produced by traditional instruments really refresh my listening, like an undiluted mouthful of Listerine clears out and wakes up your mouth.

The other day I just couldn't listen to another worn out song on the radio. I had to hear something unhomogenized, something raw, dangerous and rough. I went to my CD collection and picked out "The Fat of The Land" from Prodigy. It was just what I needed to hear. I cranked it up in my car on the way to work, and then again on the way home. Smack My Bitch Up, Diesel Power, Fire Starter. Loud, brutish, throbbing, punishing, what sweet relief. Such contrast to the radio, and everything expected and manufactured. After two listens I was feeling much better. But just to be safe, I went and grabbed Ministry's A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste.

I think a lot of Depeche Mode's appeal comes from the largely electronic structure of their music, and I find Depeche Mode to be one of those bands whose sound never seems to get old, it's still remarkably unique. I don't think I could ever get bored of listening to them.

So my advice is, every once and awhile put down that normal music and put on some noisy, industrial or electronic sounds. It will remind you of what's possible in music beyond the cut and dried and tried.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

MTV (ahem)30(cough)

This weekend, a quiet celebration occurred up on channel 186 (Cablevision reckoning). The VH1 Classic channel played host to a weekend filled with of MTV's most memorable in-house video, although by and large bereft of the music videos that made up the bulk of its programming back in those days. However, the pinnacle of the celebration was the warts-and-all, commercials-included re-airing of MTV's first hour of broadcast, notable also for the complete inability of the broadcast's minders to insert Mark Goodman's breaks in the right places between the videos. That bit of tape was utterly worth the price of admission.

Latent OCD endemic of all broadcast geeks requires that I say that I wish they'd adjusted it to be an airing of the "first 75 minutes". Y'see, back in 1981, when they were turning up the new service on a previously-unused satellite channel, they couldn't just flip the switch at midnight, because it wouldn't give the cable operators hoping to offer the new channel the chance to make sure it worked properly on their systems before it launched. Thus, the broadcast actually began about fifteen minutes before midnight with raw video of the countdown for a space shuttle launch with the MTV logo superimposed over it, timed to get to liftoff at the stroke of midnight. (In one of the great continuity errors in television, the shuttle countdown somehow resulted in the launch of an Apollo mission, since that was the footage they used for their top-of-the-hour moonwalk ID for the subsequent few years.)

On this weekend's replay, we saw that raw video starting at midnight Monday, and had to wait for it to count down before finally catching John Lack's "Ladies and gentlemen, rock 'n' roll" proclamation at about 12:15 - so we only got about 45 minutes of the first hour of Music Television. That's still quite the artifact, and I'm amazed we got a chance to see it at all.

The celebration was quiet by design. MTV has made a conscious decision to regard its age as virtually unmentionable, in the wake of its last on-air anniversary celebration (its 20th in 2001, which we covered back then - hey, MTV ain't the only media outlet that forgets its birthdays.) This makes sense from a branding perspective. As a channel dedicated to the pursuits of people younger than 25, nostalgia simply doesn't fit.

Which is probably how the tortured title "MTV 30 On VH1 Classic" came about; it safely insulates the MTV brand from the corrosive power of the word "Classic". VH1 has always been about programming for thirty-and-forty-somethings looking backward, so the idea of a "VH1 Classic" brand will always make sense, while "MTV Classic" never will. Still, as the #MTV30 hashtag made a valiant attempt at relevance on Twitter, MTV felt compelled to sheepishly acknowledge its age on its Buzzworthy blog, waiting 'til the mid-afternoon of its anniversary when, I suspect, it thought nobody was looking.

But there's still a few observations I find I have to make regarding the standard mantras inevitably voiced by those who might be excited by an MTV 30th Anniversary celebration of any sort...

  • "It didn't play black artists until 1983": This statement probably would come as a surprise to Pauline Black, lead singer of The Selecter, who were played on the first day of broadcast (and for some time afterward.) Ditto for Neville Staple and Lynval Golding of The Specials, who got played twice that day. It also totally ignores J.J. Jackson's presence on the network. This is not to say they didn't blow it when they should've gotten it right, most famously when Jackson nearly quit because the MTV news report on the day Muddy Waters died ignored that news. But they were a rock station back then, and didn't catch on that they should be a pop station until 1983 (when they added Michael Jackson's admittedly rock-friendly "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" videos, not to mention Prince's "Little Red Corvette".) They still had a decided rock lean (as did the pop charts back then) but as pop diverged from rock, MTV diverged with it.

  • "They don't play music videos": Except from 3am to 9am Eastern. By switching to reality shows, they wriggled out from under the thumb of the record industry, who finally achieved their goal of charging MTV for the privilege of advertising their product. The record industry is now trying to do the same thing to radio, and the result will be that the record industry will shoot itself in the foot. Again. Music Video will continue to be relegated to low-viewership digital-tier cable channels (like VH1 Classics) unless and until the record companies stop being so greedy. Which'll never happen.

  • And then there's the other side of that argument, "they show too many reality shows": Reality shows are cheap to produce and have increased their audience to the point where their ratings rival those of the former Big 3 networks. You can argue mission creep all you'd like, and you'd be correct, but nobody ever got fired for making more money.

So will MTV become the go-to place for music video ever again? Not given the record companies' historically bad decisions; in addition to the costs involved in airing music videos thanks to the greedy stance of the record companies, there's also the simple fact that those record companies' fortunes have fallen enough that it's only pop's superstars that are making worthwhile videos at all, because only they have the budget or the drive to get them done. (This may also have something to do with new bands realizing that music video costs were coming directly out of their pocket; the most inventive of them, like OK Go, have found ways to make interesting videos on the cheap.)

There is another way to go about things, though, and it's somewhat evocative of the reason the BBC has such a wonderful archive of session short, if one owns the performance, one doesn't have to pay to air it.

Enter the MTV Supervideo program, which takes music from interesting new artists and throws a (moderately) star-studded collection of talent at it. Their first attempt, back in November, put Anna Kendrick in the middle of a video for LCD Soundsystem's "Pow Pow" that attracted some notice, and their latest showcases Best Coast's "Our Deal", from their Crazy For You album, in a video directed by Drew Barrymore and starring a bunch of vaguely familiar faces.

Will MTV rise again to proclaim itself the once and future king of music video? Looks like there actually may be a pulse in the old girl yet. Time - and profits - will tell.
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Welcome to, also available at and Here's where the remaining listeners of several fine radio stations have retreated, regrouped, and built a replacement strong enough to stand on its own. It builds on the independent legacy of New Jersey's FM106.3, New York's WPIX and WLIR, Oklahoma's 105.3 The Spy, the pre-buyout mindset of KROQ, WBCN and WHFS and of every other alternative station that was destroyed at a moment's notice - not because they weren't making money, but because there was bigger money to be found elsewhere.
We've stood by as truly independent alternative rock radio died. Sure, something called "alternative" took its place, but we know for sure that anything that "tests well" with soccer moms just ain't alternative. (Even if some of us happen to be soccer moms.) So we've taken matters into our own hands.
This really is independent alternative rock radio, visible here at and audible at our web radio station. It has the classic music that fired our passions back in the day - or that we maybe only heard about from our elders - but it's mostly made of the new music that does precisely the same for us now. We're paying attention to scenes all over the world, watching the energy build, and waiting to see what it creates. Wherever it happens, we'll make sure you can hear about it here. We've been slowly building all this since 2001, and now that you've noticed us, we're glad you're here.
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