Tag Archives: Ex Eye

Better Know a College Radio Station: Save KUCR!

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For many obsessive fans who grew up in the pre-Internet era, a passion for music was sparked in the dingy basements and dark booths of college radio stations. Despite sound boards that are decades out of date and rapidly-changing tastes, the collegiate airwaves tradition has endured. The best college stations remain dedicated to delivering music that fall outside the purview of Billboard-charting mainstream radio.

If anything, the shifting climate has caused student station managers and music directors to work harder at keeping their stations relevant. And with good reason: at the radio station, they find comrades with whom they can trade mixtapes and stay up late into the night raving about life-changing B-sides. Bandcamp speaks from personal experience: even if our first shows were at 4am on Tuesday nights, they were the best two hours of our entire week.

In our column called Better Know a College Radio Station, we spotlight the programmers, music directors, and general managers who make sure the “On-Air” light never burns out.

The state of California is facing a huge education crisis and arts budgets are being slashed at public universities across the country so we have to wonder, where does that leave college radio?

This installment of Better Know A College Radio Station is especially important because the University of California’s Riverside campus station KUCR needs your help. The school is proposing to level the historic building that houses the station so it can build a new mixed-use complex.

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The New Face of Prog Rock

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In the late ‘60s, not long after the Summer of Love, psychedelic rock’s horizons expanded. As the architects of psych began to envision a sound that existed outside of the influence of blues and country, some unexpected and interesting things began to happen. British beat music outfit The Moody Blues recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1967 and incorporated spoken word poetry into their newly ambitious sound. The Electric Prunes abandoned garage rock under the direction of producer David Axelrod on Release of an Oath, which paired symphonic compositions with Biblical themes. And experimental Londoners Pink Floyd found inspiration in the vast expanses of space.

By the early 1970s, progressive rock had taken over the music industry, with a ‘60s-era economic boom contributing to longer, more expensive and sophisticated recordings. Progressive rock, or “prog” as it later came to be known, found rock music drifting away from a dance-oriented approach, its most prominent bands instead shifting to a more immersive headphone-listening experience. Bands such as King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer paired unconventional and experimental songwriting with narrative concepts, sometimes incorporating them into LP side-length suites. Other scenes emerged as prog evolved, such as the jazz-influenced Canterbury scene (Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Caravan), the more electronics-heavy krautrock scene in Germany (Can, Neu!, Harmonia), and the much less song-oriented experiments of avant-prog (Magma, Univers Zero, Henry Cow).

The reputation of prog waned toward the end of the ‘70s, its indulgence and largesse often credited for provoking a knee-jerk reaction in the birth of punk rock. As prog fell out of favor in the mainstream, though, it found a receptive audience in metal circles. In the late ‘80s, metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche adopted conceptual approaches on some of their most ambitious and celebrated albums. Deeper into the 1990s, the technical proficiency and sprawling song structures of prog found their way into European death metal, with bands like Opeth becoming standard-bearers for modern progressive rock along with American counterparts Tool, who brought the influence of King Crimson and Pink Floyd to an alternative rock audience.

Progressive rock today maintains the ornate instrumentation and ambition of its classic era, but as rock music itself evolved, so has prog. The recording budgets may not be what they once were, but contemporary prog bands still see beyond stylistic boundaries, embracing the instrumental skill and complex songwriting of the genre’s creators while finding new ways to evolve and change its shape. Some of them favor air-tight composition while others delve into improvisational spaces, but they all are redefining progressive rock in their own way.

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Metal, Soul, Hip-Hop, Electronic & More

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Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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