I’ve always been a radio nerd since I was a kid, tuning around on my Binatone radio cassette player, and it’s a considerable pleasure of my new car that it’s complicated entertainment system still has Medium and Long Wave radio (AM in other parts of the world).
Whilst many of the continental stations on these two bands are closing down and switching off, a few still remain and provide a wonderful backdrop for night time driving. My favourite is Bretagne 5 on 1593 kHz. As the name suggests this comes in from Brittany and after dark it can really be booming in down in my part of the world.
My love affair with the station started when I was driving home in the dark a few years ago and the auto-scan on my old car radio locked onto the frequency. As I slotted onto my local motorway I heard the opening strains of “Planet Claire” by the B52s. There was something hypnotic about the flashes of the streetlights as they passed overhead and the pulsing of the road markings with the percussion and the morse code in the opening of that song, and as I drove my car into the inky night I knew I was onto something good.
In the UK, all the music stations are formulaic, be they independent or BBC. Maybe Bretagne 5 has its own broadcast formula, but I can’t work it out as I’m not French. I do know though that you don’t hear adverts, you don’t hear lots of talking, and the music mix is really interesting; plenty of chansons, plenty of that celtic Breton thing going on, as well as North African influenced urban sounding musique and english language Indie, be it UK or North American. It’s a groovy mix.
Tonight as I came back from the pictures I heard some shrill and strident binioù kozh music, and then, as I hit the bypass, there coming back at me was Planet Claire, fading in and out with the crackles and fizzes of Medium Wave and sounding better than ever. You don’t always want DAB clarity late at night.
It won’t last forever – experience it whilst you can. 1593 kHz Medium Wave. After dark. Seek it out.