CONET Project: spy "numbers stations" preserved at

Andrea's post on Saturday about idontlikewords, the hypnotic police scanner/ambient music stream reminded me of two things: First, the concept brought to mind experimental composer Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, who has created many musical works sampling scanned cell phone chatter and police transmissions. But idontlikewords also conjured up the weird Ballardian feelings that I got listening to the Conet Project, a 4-CD recorded collection of mysterious "numbers stations" heard on shortwave radio. (Wilco's album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is named for, and samples, a numbers station.) I hadn't listened to Conet Project in several years and was happy to see it preserved for eternity at the Internet Archive. (As I posted in 2008, you can also download it free from Hyperreal.) The following is from an article I wrote about Conet for bOING bOING Digital back in 1999:


Twisting the dial of your shortwave radio, you come across the most "experimental" sounding station you've ever heard. A glockenspiel tune is followed by the voice of a little girl speaking numbers and letters in what sounds like a random order. Performance art? No, the message inside the madness just wasn't meant for you. Perhaps its intended for the ears of a CIA agent. Or KGB. Or MOSSAD. You've stumbled across a Numbers Station.

"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," reads the Web site of The Conet Project, an outfit that's compiled 150 Numbers Stations recordings from the last three decades on a four CD set. (The word "Conet" is the sign-off signal on one station.) "Announcers were sometimes heard saying, 'For the benefit of our friends overseas: Peter has painted his fence red. I repeat, Peter has Painted his fence red'," the site reads.

"Spy vs. Spy: The Soundtrack" (bOING bOING Digital)

The Conet Project (