Sunday, August 05, 2007

Radio Ga Ga Ga

Three pre-sets on the car radio have been getting a workout from me the past two weeks, tuned to stations that aren't quite garden-variety.

One is set to 108.00 FM, right on the edge of the dial. (Yep, there's traces of life beyond NU107.) I don't know how long this station's been on, who owns or operates it or what its call letters are. Heck, I don't even know if it's legit. It plays nothing but dance -- house, dub, trance, techno, garage, old school Chicago. There are no talking DJs, no ads, just a few stingers announcing the DJ on the tables. You'll find yourself nodding to the groove in no time although nobody can really listen to this stuff for more than twenty minutes alone and sober. But it's a good picker-upper especially when traffic is light and you hear an old anthem or two.

Update 11/22/07: Frequency has been changed to 107.9 some weeks back. I've heard the station call itself 107.9 FM and something that sounds like "Q" FM. Hard to hear with all that thumping.

Button No. 2 is on 92.3 MHz, the old "Joey" getting X'd and resurrected as xFM. Music is chill-out, downtempo, ambient, some dance and indie. In other words, it's Anton Ramos's weekly show on the old Joey stretched 24/7. Nation Broadcasting Corp. pulled out all the stops with this new format doing market research, appointing industry veterans Raymund Miranda (ex-DWRocK, ex-GMA 7, ex-Disney Channel Asia) as President/CEO and Al Torres (Al W. Leader ex-99.5RT, KissFM, ex-DWRock) as Managing Director, throwing launch parties and blitzing media with press releases and interviews.

This is definitely the most polished of the three -- best reception, well-produced stingers, normal adverts, and taglines voiced-over by girls who sound as young and well-scrubbed as its target market. All in all the station sounds hip and cool and trendy enough -- like you're in some edgy boutique or gallery -- with the music rather esoteric and the artists appropriately obscure (except for some Lamb, Bjork, Tricky here and there, I have no idea who's playing almost all the time). But still, bits of Coldplay, George Benson and Diane Reeves manage to slip in especially at night. Seems the old Joey ain't that dead and buried just yet.

Update 11/22/07: For a time it sounded like the old 92.3 was really back, with the old Joey songs in heavier rotation than the XFM stuff. Now it's back to the XFM groove, but genres have been split with the downtempo/ambient/electronica stuff heard in the nighttime and the smooth jazz/pop in the day. Also, I heard Raymund Miranda jumped ship and landed with NBC Universal International.

The last button brings up 105.9 RJ Underground Radio, Ramon Jacinto's latest venture. There had been buzz that loud music was coming out of this frequency and people immediately thought the old LA105 was back. Turned out it was the old RJAM that was getting a new lease on life. Nothing but rock on this dial, each 3-song set made up of something old (Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Guess Who), something newer (Radiohead, Sigur Ros, The National), and something Pinoy (The Jerks, Yano, Hilera). It's amazing that the format is 1/3 OPM and as far as this segmet is concerned, not restricted to straight rock -- more a showcase of the talent found in the burgeoning local scene, and so acts like Nyko Maca and Sino SiKat also get their share of airplay. Howlin' Dave even takes the helm Sundays 12 to 3pm with Pinoy Rock n Rhythm (haven't heard it yet tho).

I don't find anything "underground" about the broadcast, except maybe the reception which sounds like it was transmitting from under the ground. Some of the DJs do sound like they just crawled from under a rock, obviously reading off the artist's webpage or wiki entry or babbling like their mike wasn't on.

But the music is tremendous and the focus on Pinoy Rock even more so, making it worthy of the top pre-set button on your head unit. That is, if you can get past the most ridiculous taglines on the air today. A sampler (and no kidding here): "RJ Underground. The hand that rocks the cradle, cradles the rock!", "RJ Underground Radio, if they don't play it, we do! If they play it, we don't!", and the best of the lot yet: "RJ Underground Radio. You see nothing, but you hear everything!". After which, something like Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is played. Stupidity sets up the sublime. Maybe that's how it's done underground.

Update: See Comments.


Mae said...

Hi Rambling Juan. Loved this entry, esp. because I am a fan of the station.

Just a suggestion though, try calling up the station. "Test" the skills of these djs. They actually know what they're talking about. :) Cut them some slack.

JdelaCruz said...

Hi Mae, thanks for the comment.

This post is three months old and I've been meaning to do an update on it.

You're right, the DJs have shown that they do know their music chops even if their spiel skills could still use a some sprucing up. But judging from how far they've come since the early early days, I think they'd be blabbing like real pros in no time.

And the tags just keep on coming. Take this one: "If our signal isn't clear in your area, your radio isn't the problem. It's the solution." And my current favorite: "RJ Underground Radio. 105.9 times better than luuuuv."

Plus, I think I heard a sponsor or two one morning. Signs of life underground.

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