Radio Pyongyang CD 2005 VS Power Electronics Against Communism 1-3 Tape/CD 2016-2019 (320)


"Schmaltzy synthpop, revolutionary rock, cheeky child rap, and a healthy dose of hagiography for Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. This is the 'now now' sound of North Korea! A hermit kingdom with a rich folk history and an even richer tradition in over-the-top praise for the ruling House of Kim, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remains a diplomatic thorn and a culture never neverland. Boasting a heady mix of Stalin opera, Tokyo karaoke and brooding impressionism, the sound of present-day Pyongyang distills into warped agit-pop and lost-in-time commie funk

More than 10 years ago, sitting in my Hong Kong flat, I used to tune regularly to the Radio Pyongyang short-wave broadcasts, mostly hoping for a good laugh at the propaganda, but also to revisit some of the bizarre pop music 1 had heard while on a short visit to the North. Sometimes falling asleep to the radio, I would be woken by an eerie, detached female voice reading endless lists of Korean numbers. The sound was equal parts haunting and fascinating and I soon found other late-night stations broadcasting similar lists in Korean, English and Chinese. A few inquiries to clued-in friends and I learned these 'numbers stations' could be heard in various languages across the globe, transmitting coded messages to foreign spies.

An excited eavesdropper on a secret game, I recorded hours of the hypnotic North Korean number lists. Also caught on tape, and later mini-disc, was a large collection of DPRK pop and revolutionary pomp. Sadly, most of the recordings went missing during a relocation in suburban Beijing. But the recent discovery of a single cassette sparked an effort to compile an updated version of those "classic" intercepts.
This then is my own personal Radio Pyongyang, constructed using that lone remaining archive tape and spiced with live recordinas from various performances in North Korea. Also in the mix are sounds lifted from People's Army television dramas, captures from 'Mass Games' demonstrations, samples from hard-to-find CD releases obtained in the North and, of course, news reports from the 'real' Radio Pyongyang, which continues to broadcast to this day. Albeit under the new, strikingly anodyne moniker 'Voice Of Korea'."

--Christian Virant July 2005