The Conet Project: Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations (Expanded 5CD Edition) [Irdial Records]

A lot of people weighing in on this release, and after a quick listen I can see why. What on the outset looks like a specialist fan-boy project with a minimal audience, is actually a relatively accessible and interesting listen. The Conet Project (or The Conet Project: Recordings Of Shortwave Numbers Stations) has just been repackaged as a 5CD boxset, over 150 tracks of shortwave radio sounds that have been transmitting for decades but never properly documented.

These recordings come from ‘numbers stations’ – dedicated shortwave stations that repeat transmissions at regular intervals – often numbers, letters or morse code – on a seemingly endless loop. As the strongest theories go, these shortwave stations were set up during World War II as ways to communicate to spies. Many of those set up pre-1950 and beyond still exist today, regularly sending out their transmissions on rigid schedules. It gets really interesting next when you consider that although we can listen to the numbers and the shortwave recordings on the internet or through CDs, technology that didn’t even exist when they were set up, it’s claimed that no ‘numbers station’ code has ever been broken by a person without some form of super-computer.

So comfortable are they with the practice, several government service branches, including M16, even openly admit to these stations’ existence and ongoing use. That said, numbers stations are enough of a threat for people to still be prosecuted via their involvement in espionage through them. They date back to the 50s, but there have even been a number of people sentenced in the last ten years, most recently in 2009 when the United States “charged Walter Kendall Myers with conspiracy to spy for Cuba and receiving and decoding messages broadcast from a numbers station operated by the Cuban Intelligence Directorate to further that conspiracy.”

Check out the uber-conspiracy video below.

Historical importance aside, these shortwave recordings withing The Conet Project are akin to listening to an audio book, and somewhat soothing in their repetition, much like snooker commentary on the radio. Lost fans will no doubt relate it to the repeating number message on the island, and producers will no doubt find some sample-fodder in here. It can be argued that 5cds might is a little excessive, but the reality is that each track does leave you wanting more, especially once you start reading through the accompanying booklet.

Great project, brilliant release and big ups Irdial the label behind it. Check their press release below.

via The Conet Project
For more than 45 years the Shortwave radio spectrum has been used by the worlds intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages. These messages are transmitted by hundreds of “Numbers Stations”.

Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication. Spies located anywhere in the world can be communicated to by their masters via small, locally available, and unmodified Shortwave receivers. The encryption system used by Numbers Stations, known as a “one time pad” is unbreakable. Combine this with the fact that it is almost impossible to track down the message recipients once they are inserted into the enemy country, it becomes clear just how powerful the Numbers Station system is.

These stations use very rigid schedules, and transmit in many different languages, employing male and female voices repeating strings of numbers or phonetic letters day and night, all year round. The voices are of varying pitches and intonation; there is even a German station ‘The Swedish Rhapsody’ that transmitted a female child’s voice!
One might think that these espionage activities should have wound down considerably since the official “end of the Cold War”, but nothing could be further from the truth. Numbers Stations, and by inference, spies, are as busy as ever, with many new and bizarre stations appearing since the fall of the Berlin wall.

Why is it that in over 45 years, the phenomenon of Numbers Stations has gone almost totally unreported? What are the agencies behind the Numbers Stations, and why are the eastern European stations still on the air? Why did the Czech republic operate a Numbers Station 24 hours a day?

How is it that Numbers Stations are allowed to interfere with essential radio services like air traffic control and shipping without having to answer to anybody? Why did the “Swedish Rhapsody” Numbers Station use a small girls voice?

These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.

Now Irdial-Discs is releasing The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations / 1111, a special edition of the legendary and first ever comprehensive collection of Numbers Stations recordings to be made public, now augmented and updated with a new 5th CD of previously unreleased recordings.

This Quintuple CD is an important historical reference work for research into this hitherto unreported and unknown field of espionage. Many of the stations on the CD have ceased operations, and can no longer be heard. The new package consists of the 4 original Conet Project CDs containing 150 recordings of Numbers Stations spanning the twenty years up to the release of the original set in 1997, an 80 page, perfect bound booklet, 4 post cards, plus a new 5th CD of 26 previously unreleased recordings of bizarre ‘Noise Stations’, and a new 8 page booklet accompanying the 5th CD.

A few years back, following a court-case ruling with Wilco having illegally sampled the 1997 original collection on Irdial, The Conet Project became open content. What this means, is that the original four discs are available to stream or download free of charge, provided they’re cited correctly, a very generous move. Head over to the wonderful to check it out: