Back in July 2010, the BBC Trust announced it was not going to close 6 Music. It said the station was “well-liked by its listeners, was highly distinctive and made an important contribution”. It has since gone to become the most listened to digital radio station with an average weekly audience of 1.9million listeners, and now attracts a larger listenership than Radio 3.
But is it any good? Increasingly I’ve heard grumblings that along the way to this roaring success it has lost some of its original charm. Once the preserve of muso’s past and present, the stations day time output has leaned increasingly towards a more mainstream sound, it’s hardly Lady Gaga & Miley Cyrus, but with it’s regimented playlists and album of the day feature increasingly the DJ’s seem less in charge of the musical output, and increasingly it’s sounding a bit more like the alternative end of Radio 2. Whether you appreciate the charms of Radcliffe & Maconie or Lauren Laverne is really a matter of opinion. Personally as someone who’s often forced to listen to Heart Radio on a constant loop, I now consider Mark & Stuart chatting with listeners about making Fleetwood Mac sandwiches the ultimate in hi-brow chat.
However, lets remember something here, day-time radio has never been obscure. In the heyday of Radio 1, yes they had John Peel and Steve Lamacq running their evening schedule, but the highlight of the daytime was still Mark & Lard making silly noises. Like Radio everywhere it’s once the sun starts to dip that the station starts to shine! Marc Riley is probably the most reliably interesting DJ on British Radio, a perfect mix of passion, humour and a love of all things new. Gideon Coe’s show may feature segments about Listeners Sheds but it also plays music that you wont hear anywhere else on the radio. Arguably most interesting of all though, is their newest show, 6 Music Recommends, giving some of the stations more well established DJ’s the opportunity to step away from the playlist and put together an hour of their favourite new music. This show is a vital reminder of what drew the likes of Lauren Laverne, Mary Anne Hobbs and Tom Ravenscroft to the station in the first place, their undeniable passion for music, sadly it airs at midnight when the vast majority have switched off their radios, it’s well worth an iPlayer listen though!
So where does it leave the station? Still going strong and still very much the best thing on the air, and still introducing the listener to exciting new bands, as Lauren Laverne did the other night with Pale Seas.
Pale Seas was originally the work of Jacob Scott and a 4-track recorder. He soon recruited Graham Pool on Guitar, and Matthew Bishop on bass, before recently adding drummer Will Hilliard into the mix. They also have some highly reputable friends helping out. Backing vocals are provided by Alessi Laurent-Marke (better known as Alessi’s Ark) and their regular production companion is none other than Paul Butler. Paul being best known as the singer of The Bees, now a Mercury Prize nominated producer who has worked with the likes of Michael Kiwanuka and The Sugars.
A blend of acoustic guitars, shimmering electronic sounds, and Jacob’s wonderfully delicate vocal, often paired with some unsurprisingly gorgeous backing from Alessi. Even on a 4-track EP, they show a good variety of songwriting, from upbeat pop numbers, to almost post-rock soundscapes.
Many of the bands early works were written in Jacob’s flat in Leytonstone. however realising that was rubbish and boring, he moved back to glamorous…errr…Southampton. Which according to one entirely unbiased website “has a fantastic underground music scene and a famous heritage of producing internationally famous, multi-platinum selling artists!” and then goes on to mention Craig David and the guy from Aqualung, both fantastic and underground I’m sure you’ll agree! However The Delays were alright and they’re from Southampton.
Jacob started writing the track back in the summer of 2011, and their debut single, Something or Nothing, emerged in March 2012 on the Fear & Records label. A single followed on Communion Records in September 2012, and nearly two years later they’re finally getting around to releasing a more substantial recording, in the form of their recently released EP, Places To Haunt.
As debut EP’s go, Places To Haunt is a wonderfully refined piece, perhaps not surprising as it’s been three years in the making. Over it’s four tracks it also covers a lot of bases, Wicked Dreams is pure pop, a hybrid of Bombay Bicycle Club’s production quality and The Spinto Band’s joyous sense of fun, whilst Evil Is Always One Step Behind is a downbeat, acoustic anthem, that gently unveils a blues ridden core, and soars to a heavy crescendo, with nods to both The Strange Death Of Liberal England and Broken Records (minus the Scottish accent). A rich musical tapestry, neatly stitched to an enjoyable whole.
Some will find them all a bit too earnest, and they certainly come across as a very serious band. Whilst on a more song-structure related note, some tracks seem a touch bloated, whilst others are gone all too soon, perhaps an attempt to cram as much variety into this EP as they can. That said it’s a highly promising debut, and once they settle on a sound all their own, there’s enough to suggest it could lead to something absolutely stunning.
Places To Haunt is out now. Pale Seas play Ventor Fringe Festival on the Isle of Wight, August 17th.