Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Conet Project

Some weekend listening… I spent a pleasant (and unnerving) few hours yesterday afternoon listening to Iridal Discs’ 1997 compilation The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations, a massive 5-disc compilation of recordings of voices reciting numbers and phonetic code words in a seemingly random order, frequently accompanied by little jingles or electronic tones and chimes. These mysterious transmissions are said to be a phenomenon of “numbers stations”, a left over from the Cold War era, when shadowy government agencies broadcast encrypted messages to undercover operatives over the shortwave band. If that wasn’t sinister enough, these static-filled recordings are fabulously spooky pieces of sound art - the multilingual voices range from warm and seductive to cold and artificial; sometimes relaxed, on other occasions urgent, even frantic, and all of them layered with bleeps, drones, distortions and ghostly interference.

Listening to the set yesterday put in mind William Burroughs’ tape archive compilation Nothing Here Now But the Recordings which features similarly hauntological soundscapes, and one might well imagine Interzone agents navigating thru the blizzard of static in search of these number station transmissions. If you’ve ever been bewitched by the strange poetry of the BBC's Shipping Forecast, or experienced a frisson listening to Electronic Voice Phenomena recordings, The Conet Project is highly recommended

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