Valiska‘s Numbers has been ruminating for years. Untraceable transmissions, known as Numbers stations, came to his attention over a decade ago.
Here’s how they work: every day, at regular intervals, strange voices are broadcast over narrow bands of shortwave radio. These encoded sounds are broadcast from unknown locations to an unknown number of people.
Discovered at the end of World War I, Numbers stations, Valiska says, are “…out there, ignored or unbeknownst to most. Even those who are aware of the broadcasts don’t know what they’ll actually be able to decipher from them”. But do these numbers mean anything? Are they a part of a sequence or do they need to be deciphered? Or is it just the very human need to compose order and structure from something that’s apparently random? To search for recognition, and shapes in disfigurements, and added meanings behind the reality of existence. We say that there should be more to life than this, but what if this is enough? Isn’t it enough to have the numbers speak, without giving them meaning?
A mysterious broadcast emitting from somewhere on the planet, Numbers very specifically explores communication and our complicated relationship with it. Nothing can be lost in translation when it comes to numbers, but it’s still another language to learn. Math, like music, is a universal language, with numbers replacing notes. Boards of Canada once stated that music is math, and they should know: their 2002 outing, Geogaddi, was packed with cryptic messages and numbers, and some of them cross over to this record.
Here, alien tones are drip-fed to the listener, channeling through straight circuitry and Commodore 64 melodies; a selection of retro electronics which have somehow survived. The 80’s are long gone, but Valiska’s electronics resurrect an older, fuller sound while giving the music full access to the present and the future. Patient and exploratory melodies blend in with the rainfall of static. Voices in different languages, including English and Italian, highlight its international relevancy. And no matter the track, Numbers has been painstakingly put together. Sometimes melancholic and forlorn, roaming the lonely airwaves while looking for a listener to call their own, Numbers is a record of immense quality, worthy of a broadcast through your own speakers. (James Catchpole)