Friday, August 21, 2020

The Conet Project - "Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations" [1997]

Artist: The Conet Project
Title: Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations
Genre: Radionoise, Field Recordings
Country: UK
Year: 1997

My blog definitely wouldn't be complete without a mention of this release, and while I've briefly mentioned it a few years ago, it deserves a post on its own. Many noise and experimental music artists have used the shortwave radio recordings in their works, but The Conet Poject deals with probably the most fascinating and enigmatic (pun intended) radio-related phenomenon: the number stations. For those who don't know what it is:

"Number stations are shortwave transmissions from foreign intelligence agencies to spies in the field of foreign countries. They carry encrypted messages in form of groups of numbers or letters, using either automated voice, Morse code, or a digital mode. While the encryption methods used by most number stations are unknown, some have used and others are widely believed to use one-time pad: mathematical addition of a set of random numbers (the key) to the cleartext, which can be used only once, and must be destroyed after usage...

Number stations offer a powerful advantage in our modern world: practically complete anonymity. The recipient of the message can be almost anywhere in the world, and receive instructions without fear of being traced through a phone call or internet connection. All the recipient needs is a shortwave radio and to be in the right place at the right time. The first account of a number station, as reported in the ENIGMA newsletter #12, was from an issue of the Austrian magazine Kurzwelle Panorama dating from World War I"
The Conet Project is a collection of recordings of some of the most famous number stations and noise stations broadcasts, compiled by Akin Fernandez and released on 5 (originally 4) CDs by Irdial Discs in 1997. Now they're officially available for free, in keeping with the "free music philosophy" of Irdial. While there's objectively not much to listen to if you're not a noise fan, The Conet Project has become a major souce of samples for many various films and albums, and has reached a cult status even among such people as Mike Patton and Aphex Twin. For me, it's also a reminder of the days when I was a radiophysics student and a bit of a ham radio enthusiast (although not to the point of getting a callsign). The fact that those transmissions are most likely related to espionage definitely helps this record to deliver an atmosphere of mystery too (even if those messages, for the most part, are actually much more benign and less sinister or "alien" than many shortwave radio listeners think).



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    1. There's the "Download Options" tab, you need to choose the "VBR MP3" option and click the "150 files" link. Or you can choose the torrent option, if you wish.