Saturday, October 01, 2005

Shall we trance?

Now that AM/FM radio stations have refined commercial vacuity to undreamed of depths, there's a widespread hunger for alternative sources of broadcast music that refresh the parts that other stations cannot reach. Hence the fast growth of satellite radio (XM and Sirius), which I've never heard; but just in case you were unaware of it, there's an alternative alternative that I suspect is becoming more exhilarating than satellite radio. It's Internet broadcasting.

Aside from enabling you to listen to radio stations from all over the world (which sometimes only produces the sinking feeling that, like so much else in the commercial sphere, there's a Burger King and Starbuck's for every human activity), independent -- at least for the moment -- music outlets enable you to check out stuff you definitely won't hear over the airwaves.

I recently ran across a good example: OEM Radio, which bills itself as original electronic music radio. The station says, "The music content is wide ranging in terms of genre: you will hear ambient, IDM, downtempo, breakbeat, dub, psychedelic chill, and many other not-so-easily categorized sounds. OEM Radio plays listening music and not dance music. OEM Radio seeks to bring original electronic music and recording artists that are underexposed to a wider audience."

Did you get that -- listening music and not dance music? Glory!

Although I'm dead keen on quite a bit of what goes under the name of trance music (when the psychedelic aspect is prominent and the bass beats don't kneecap you), I have to plead ignorance of the meaning of IDM and don't think I care for breakbeat and dub. But so far I've found the OEM listening experience rewarding and unusual.

Another bonus is that the station, or maybe a network it's part of, uses the iTunes player, which I've never encountered before. Not only is sound quality remarkably good for what I assume are MP3 condensed files, but the player has a visualizer mode that produces outstanding constant-change patterns. (Yes, I know Microsoft's player does visuals too, but this blows Mr. Softee's product away.) From the OEM home page, click Tune In, then OK in the dialogue box that follows, and it downloads the player or opens it if you already have it.

Turn on the visualizer using the menu at the top left or the button with an icon that looks like a flower at the lower right. Even if this type of music isn't your spot of tea, you'll likely be entranced by the "light show." Enjoy!

[Note: OEM says they put out a 128K bitstream that requires a broadband connection like DSL or cable, but they've got eyes to add a lower-bandwidth version that will work with any connection.]

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