‘Hacker Farm have managed to create something that feels genuinely different and odd and exciting for anyone who likes a bit of mystery’ – Ian Maleney gets all hauntological on us.
There’s been a major wave of music in the past few years that has had the word “hauntological” attached to it. This simply means that it seems to deal in the spectre of memory and chipped, rusted nostalgia. Where much recent indie music has dealt in a kind of pining for a sunny, sepia past that never really existed, there is – as always – an underground that focuses more on a monochromatic, industrialized version of the past. It’s not necessarily more real than the day-glo stuff but it does generally get at an urban dankness that is hard to deny if you’ve lived in a city for any length of time.
This darker element has taken many forms, from the kind of pan-European ghostliness of the Tri Angle stable to Vatican Shadow and Silent Servant’s Americanised noise and on to the distinctly British aesthetic of Broadcast and Ghostbox, which was a major influence on last year’s Berberian Sound Studio. Much of it, unfortunately, is bloodless. It’s all shadow and no darkness, the difference between conspiracy theories and genuine mystery. By bringing all this shadowy nonsense out into a field, dismantling it and putting it back together however they damn well please, Hacker Farm have managed to create something that feels genuinely different and odd and exciting for anyone who likes a bit of mystery.
UHF is the fullest exploration of the Hacker Farm aesthetic to date. Their back-story – a few guys with names like Farmer Glitch soldering and welding away on an abandoned farm somewhere in the Home Counties – gives credence to the idea that the music is so distinctly odd that it could only have come from an isolated group, who have ever more hazy memories of the wider culture. ‘Deterretorial Army‘ grunts it’s way over a descending growler of bassline and while radiophonic synths phase and sweep over the top. ‘Burlington‘ is more spare though no less heavy in its way, detailing vortexes, ancient burial sites and all manner of underground goings-on while a thud grows steadily in the distance. Bigfoot sightings, the lizard people, cave demons, they’re all in there, draped in whispy, out-of-tune synthesizer zephyrs. ‘One, Six, Nein‘ comes replete with a manifesto that rejects the capitalisation of reality and the monetisation of ideas. It emerges from the noise and electrical interference, a moment of clarity where none was thought possible. “We refuse to participate in this pale imitation of reality you have created for us to consume. We embrace the real. We inhabit the now. This world is ours.”
While most of UHF is all spooky resonances, distant drones, gears clicking somewhere out of sight and crossed radio signals muddling up your sensory awareness, when it’s lured you in through its “underground tunnels”, a sound will explode with a physical force, change the landscape completely and disappear. ‘Grinch‘ is the obvious one, a song that begs to be dropped in some adventurous DJ’s set but probably never will be. It has the menace of early dubstep, creaky but powerful, spacious but pressurized. The way time begins to melt at the end is just brilliant, bouncing tempo around the place and having it snap elastic back into place.
There’s not a whole lot to be gleaned in the normal sense from UHF. You don’t come out of it knowing a whole lot more than you went in but maybe you’ll see things in the shadows that you never did before. Maybe you’ll feel differently about the way the moonlight falls across the grass in the middle of a country lane. Maybe you’ll begin to hear messages in the static when you move the dial on the radio. They are out there. UHF is world unto itself, reflecting our own back at us, warped to expose what has been hidden in the places we never dared to look. With it comes the idea that there are ways of living and existing that we have not yet explored.