Monday, June 23, 2008


Why is it that in over 30 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 does 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 does the “Swedish Rhapsody” Numbers Station use a small girl's voice?

When Iridal-Discs released "THE CONET PROJECT" CD set back in the early 2000s, there was no shortage of suckers willing to fork out their hard earned on nearly 5 hours' worth of unlistenable dross. Thanks to Soulseek, more discerning punters were able to check this complilation out for free (by 'check out', I mean 'delete the entire download list after playing the first three or four tracks'). By Irdial's own admission, 'nobody' knows what purpose the numbers stations serve, or who operates them - but this doesn't stop the label blatantly packaging "THE CONET PROJECT" as a series of highly sinister spy broadcasts, black operations concocted by faceless government agencies.

For years, radio enthusiasts have been recording these obscure announcements and pontificating over what it all means. If you've ever pleasured yourself fiddling around with your shortwave knob, you may well have heard a few of these dull broadcasts yourself. The contrived paranoia surrounding the marketing of this release suggests that the buyer is accessing some dark, secret mystery but, as with all good industrial schtick, the buyer stands scant chance of stumbling across the TRUTH.

But BEYOnd thE IMPlode can finally reveal all! Yes, after some extensive research (a few emails and a chat with Ian Curtis on the ouija board, actually), I can now toss the soiled bra of SUPERSTITION into the Hotpoint of LOGIC, apply the dissolvable bio-tablets of REASON and, an hour later, pull out the gleaming white undergarment of ENLIGHTENMENT. That's correct - Irdial are doing nothing more than flogging recordings of international BINGO CALLING STATIONS.

Bingo was a lot more popular back in the 60s, 70s and 80s than it is now, and a series of stations were set up globally to cash in on the craze. Punters would buy bingo cards 'under the counter', from various newsagents and street vendors, and then tune in to specified frequencies, to listen to their numbers being called. True, in those pre-National Lottery days, almost all of these stations operated without a license and were technically 'illegal' but, for those 'in the know', they weren't that hard to find.

But what about that track with the Soviet jammers whistling over the top? you wail. Oh, and you know that they're Soviet jammers - how exactly? I suppose you did a bit of cash-in-hand for the KGB during your gap year? Those high-pitched twitters and tweets aren't jammers - they're announcing that some lucky player's just landed Full House!

But the stations are harder to find these days than they were 20 years ago! Well, bingo's declined in popularity, duh! It's easier to bag a license now and do the whole thing online - google "SEAFARERS LOTTO MALTA" if you don't believe me. But most people now couldn't care less about this once noble pastime.

But...but..the little girl's's creepy! Oh for fuck's sake, how do you KNOW it's a 'little girl'? Did you actually see her? Have you never met a woman with a high-pitched or child-like voice? And what bearing has it got on the whole affair anyway?

From the Irdial website:

Everyone on earth is connected to everyone else; it only takes six
steps to get from any one person to any other person on the planet,
hence the phrase 'Six Degrees of Separation'. If this really is the
case, then we should be able to track down people who worked in
Numbers Stations from the last three decades, simply by deploying the
special cards that we have produced.

Hopefully the people that we are able to locate (and that are willing
to divulge their secrets to us) will have kept a private, detailed
record of what they did, the decisions that were made, who made them,
why, and everything else we are keen to know. We may finally find out
why a little girl's voice was thought to be appropriate for use in a
Numbers Station!

What special cards have Irdial 'deployed' - bingo calling cards? And what secrets are these shadowy bingo masters meant to divulge? That dark night in Manila when Mrs Santiago won 400 Filipino bucks for completing a row? And will you stop banging on about the 'little girl' already.

Of course, I suppose some occultist prat might make something of the fact that, in bingo caller terminology, the number 23 translates as "THEE AND ME"...but I'm not trying to resuscitate this decaying urban myth with an equally tedious "worldwide Satanic conspiracy" angle - merely to point out that, for the past six or seven years, Irdial's been making a packet from selling people recordings of pirate radio bingo sessions. Of course, some of these recordings aren't without a certain 'quaint' charm - the badly played Casio interpretation of "THE LINCOLNSHIRE POACHER" is quite amusing, while the Italian bingo stations went for a sterner sounding, militaristic signature, to announce "EYES DOWN". But Irdial really should stop pushing "THE CONET PROJECT" as a glimpse into the world of clandestine Cold War communications - and instead admit that it's just another cheap nostalgia trip for the 21st century consumer's head.

(Originally pitched to 'The Wire' in a kebab shop in 2007 - told by the editor to fuck off)


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