There’s a lot about mysterious Yeovil, UK-based electronic collective Hacker Farm that has all the makings of mythic status before you even get started listening to this debut album. Centred around the trio of Farmer Glitch, Kek-W and Bren, all veterans of outdoor parties, a recent Wire tour of Hacker Farm HQ saw the collective operating out of an abandoned agricultural nursery complex, with seemingly every room crammed with eccentric homebrewed gear – PAs fashioned from milkcans, a jerry can-synth, and even a guitar made from a lunchbox aptly named the Lunchcaster. While it’s difficult to escape the rural associations here though, in this case the sort of English countryside inhabited by Hacker Farm is far closer to the likes of Demdike Stare’s dark ley-lines or Coil’s moonlit atmospheres than anything approaching pastoralism. There’s also a noticeable theme of industrial textures and noise running through much of the ten tracks here, whether in the form of lurching off-centre rhythms or buzzing layers of static, with a large portion of UHF sitting closer to Throbbing Gristle’s relentlessly beat-driven moments perhaps more than anything else.
Opening track ‘5.29’ kicks proceedings off with an ominous wander through repetitively squeaking mechanical noises and dark buzzing bass tones that suggests a walk through some ancient subterranean factory, the ghostly wail of harmonic resonance beginning to take on an almost spectral quality towards the track’s conclusion. By contrast ‘Deterritorial Army’ sets the controls for a deep burn down into the heart of darkness as a militant-sounding drum loop locks into place against toxic layers of billowing distortion and redlining machine squeals, layers of coldwave synths building into a grandiose crescendo that calls to mind associations with some of Prurient’s more recent work.
Another theme that repeatedly crops up here is the use of enigmatic sampled dialogue, whether in the case of ‘Burlington’s incorporation of what sounds like a retro conspiracy documentary narrator describing a mysterious network of underground tunnels beneath the titular US city involving â€œlizard people, Bigfoot and Al Caponeâ€, or the detached synthesised voice on ‘One Six Nein’ which appears to offer up the closest thing to a political manifesto here (â€œwe reject your hollow spectacle / we reject your so-called cultureâ€). UHF is a fascinating debut album, simply because it poses far more questions than it answers. Whatever the case, Hacker Farm describe their own efforts as ‘broken music for a broken Britain’, and the tag fits better than arguably anything else.