R.B. Russell

The Romance of Shortwave Radio Numbers Stations


CD released on the Persepolis label, 12th August, 2016.



1. First Light on the Pechora Sea, 9:05

2. The Quiet Woman of Montevideo, 3:03

3. Radio Traffic, 3 am, 6:15

4. A Boarding House, Union City, 6:49

5. The Man from Haarlem, 3:48

6. Party in El-Zaytoun, 2:48

7. Yekaterinburg, early evening, 3:21

8. Adventures in the Ionosphere, 4:23

9. Shortwave Waterfall, 3:12

As played on The Freak Zone, BBC Radio Six, 14/01/18.


The video presentation for The Romance of Shortwave Radio Numbers Stations will be shown at Dean Clough Galleries from Saturday 24th February, 2018.



Numbers stations are hidden away on short wave radio frequencies, broadcasting seemingly nonsensical lists of numbers, bleeps and tones. They appear regularly or irregularly, and it would seem that amongst the meaningless repetition and snatches of music (Tyrolean tunes, Bert Kaempfert, and eight note rising scales) there are often coded messages. And they have been broadcast for a number of years.


They may sound meaningless, but there will be very real stories associated with numbers stations. On one side there is the operation of the broadcasts themselves, and researchers have often located transmissions as coming from remote and uninhabited parts of the world (from the Sinai Desert to the banks of the Caspian Sea). Some stations appear to send out real code, while others continue to broadcast loops for no obvious reason and are probably automated. The dramas associated with these broadcasts will have been played out equally in plush international embassies and sordid boarding houses, from Moscow to London, from Berlin to Laos. They have been going on throughout the twentieth century and into the modern day, reflecting shifts in world history and politics, but usually seen from the point of view of people operating clandestinely, unidentified and unacknowledged. In fly-blown back rooms and attics from Havana to Prague, from radio stations in the Urals to the Antarctic, ordinary, forgotten people handle coded information which they may not even understand, but which could mean trial for treason if they are caught.


Mastered by Andy Liles


Acknowledgements: Ania GoszczyƄska, Rosalie Parker, Lisa Robotka, Walter Robotka, David Tibet, Joanna Valentine, Mark Valentine, Cindy Ziesing, Mark Ziesing, priyom.org, University of Twente Amateur Radio Club ETGD, The Netherlands.


Temporarily out of stock



"The recording, with its brittle and haunting pieces, captures a Cold War ambience and moves impressionistically in the borderland worlds of Eric Ambler or Graham Greene. We sense the lighter flame blue in the rain, below the street sign not on any map: we are in the world of the stranger without luggage, hat brim low, nothing to lose, silent, and staring about him. The music conveys our yearning after meaning in a domain of shadows." Wormwoodiana


"...an interesting conceptual piece"  Ave Noctum








Copyright Tartarus Press, 2018