A new computer is a chance for Tom Ravenscroft to refresh his podcasts list.
I have a new computer. You might be able tell by how crisp this lettering looks, the way the words bounce with new-found vigour across the page. Aside from the inevitable task of now having to transfer piles of tedious and obsolete folders titled things like; "House", "Money", "CVs" and "Stuff", it has given me the opportunity to start afresh with the music stored on my computer - in particular, the podcasts that I have subscribed to. I like podcasts, they are small audio gifts that sneak on to your computer unannounced each week and just when you are struggling to find something to listen to, there they are, an hour or so of music chosen by someone you trust who takes over the task so you can get on with something else.
Most of my podcast time is taken up by talk rather than music. I have gathered around me, be it only in sound, a selection of people more intelligent, funnier and better informed than me to try to help me become more like them. My favourites, which I reinstated without hesitation, were Radio 4's The News Quiz and This American Life; one the funniest programme on radio; the other a series of the most charming, interesting and often inspirational stories of everyday American lives. How everyone in the US seems so eloquent is generally the greatest mystery of each programme.
As podcasts are downloaded, it creates lots of issues with the copyright of the music that gets used, hence the vast majority of music podcasts only playing snippets of tracks. Or, even more annoyingly, employing someone to talk endless drivel over what might have been a good record. Over the years, as the medium has grown, people have found various ways of getting around this problem, often by either mixing the records together or owning the copyright to the records they use.
Discrepant is a little-known blog with a podcast (discrepant.net/transmissions). It's also available through iTunes. Each week it has guest mixes from a variety of artists, often working within a certain theme and accompanied by a nice photograph. A certain amount of its content is taken up by field recordings, a genre that many may feel listening to in their spare time might see them being classified as a bit odd. Discrepant is the perfect place to get over this fear and indulge in not just pretty and interesting sounds but also some very nice ideas and ways at looking at how you consume and categorise music. You might hear a mix of sounds inspired by the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, or records that were pivotal in the develop of the new genre Wocky - something I still don't understand but appreciate Discrepant for trying to clarify for me.
Touch Pod, part of Touch Records, offers a selection of recordings made by artists such as Philip Jeck and Christian Fennesz, who are affiliated with the label and therefore aren't going to charge themselves for playing their own material (touchradio.org.uk). Field recordings, which you are now totally comfortable with, do make up most of the podcasts and do sound at times like radio documentaries someone forgot to put any commentary over. My favourites are truffle-hunting with pigs in Tuscany, rehearsal tapes from the Suffolk Symphony and the songs of wolves recorded in Lozère, France in the middle of a winter's night.
You may by now require something a bit livelier. DJ Rupture who is not only a brilliant DJ but also a very clever man, has for a long
time been making a show called Mudd Up! on WFMU (wfmu.org/playlists/DR). It is so good: always unpredictable, every record carefully considered, where it will fit and what it will do to the records around it.
It twists and turns with a range of music that is otherworldly; I find it genuinely exciting and each week it reinvigorates the idea that hunting for great music and noises to present to others is one of the greatest jobs you could dream to have. l