The Boston Phoenix

arts & entertainment

Best aural fixation

With ownership of the nation's radio stations passing into the hands of an ever-smaller number of media conglomerates, our airwaves are becoming ever more homogenized and predictable. But in the past decade, independent producers like American Radio Works and programs like Public Radio International's This American Life have succeeded in reinvigorating the medium. For the past two years, local listeners have been lucky enough to have their own alternative to schlock radio: Your Radio Nightlight, an hour-long show written, performed, and produced by Benjamen Walker, a DJ at WZBC and a producer for WBUR.

One reason to give Nightlight a listen is that it escapes easy categorization. Starting with a central theme, Walker assembles recorded sketches and monologues over a backing of spare instrumentals. The result, which Walker calls "radio drama," is consistently fresh, edgy, and unlike anything else on the air. One recent show, "Other People," used narrative and taped phone calls to tell the stories of a self-obsessed writer who can't write in the third person and an employee who becomes responsible for monitoring the Internet activity of his co-workers. Other shows have featured conversations with employees of work-at-home services, riffs on the restorative power of karaoke, and a capsule history of Niagara Falls daredevils.

With its intimate subjects and its mixture of live and scripted encounters, Nightlight treats its listeners as more than just potential consumers. Walker explains that his goal is to "create something that sounds real." The result is radio with a voice that's refreshingly quirky, unique, and human.

Your Radio Nightlight is broadcast on Sundays at 10 p.m. on WZBC (90.3 FM). Recordings of past shows are archived at

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