Hacker Farm / Libbe Matz Gang: Crass in Africa (No Label CDr)
Hacker Farm: Dreamware Reboot (Feral Tapes cassette)
Recorded by everyone’s favourite rural rave punks Hacker Farm in collaboration with fellow refusenik loons Libbe Matz Gang, Crass in Africa was ostensibly created as light relief from a commission to re-score the lost Nigerian masterpiece, Witches. No, I don’t believe a bleedin’ word of it either, but it all makes good story, don’t it?
Anyway, Crass in Africa is a wonderfully scabrous collision of crappy techno junk, virus-fucked data noise and hobbling kick drum murk. Imagine Godspeed! You Black Emperor if they put down the cellos for a bit and instead channelled their anti-corporate angst through a bunch of shattered electrics they repatriated from a Cash Converters in Wood Green and you’re close to the murky, corroded blast of this album.
Though not entirely dissimilar to previous Hacker Farm works such as UHF and Poundland, here the mushroomy ambience of those works has been well and truly jettisoned for a bitterly righteous ire against the ravages left by petrochemical giants in their unrelenting exploitation of fossil fuel territories, the first world greed which drives it and the supine regulatory regimes which enable it.
Its eight tracks don’t hang around, but they do the business all right, spitting and snarling in a blizzard of mangled drum bots and distorted synth farts. Re:Allegation lets rip right out of the gate, setting the tone for the rest of the album with an evil wah and drum loop that threatens to take your head from your shoulders.
Agblogbloshie gives it the full-on drone treatment, saw-toothed synths seeming to decay before your very eyes into a puddle of foul ordure, while the title track scours your frontal lobes with an uncompromising mash-up of white noise, found sound and wailing synths. Forget the naked lunch – this is the vision of exploitation on the end of the petrol pump. It should be played on every petrol station forecourt in the land.
In contrast, Dreamware Reboot is positively tranquil. Here be clanking, gritty electronics but they’re harnessed to a benign sonic regime, with networks of undulating beats crisscrossed with muffled tape excursions and mournful bleeps. There’s even a banjo – or is it the famed lunchcaster, a rudimentary guitar constructed from, yep, a lunchbox – on Dead Blogs, its languid strum like some charred ‘n’ dubby post-rave morning after tea and jam session round the fire.
But as the tape winds itself on, the mood of dissident chillout slowly seems overtaken by a sense of almost embittered passivity. The slowly morphing analogue tones of Silver Street seem to signal withdrawal rather than engagement, a narcotic drift while the world collapses all around. The group’s motto is Broken Music for a Broken Britain, but on listening to bleak soundscapes like Leisure Simulation #2, I’m wondering whether their maverick spirit has been broken too? No wonder the final track on the tape is takes its title from a leading brand of over-the-counter sleeping tablets.
I can’t quite believe it though. Surely this crew are made of sterner stuff?. If Dreamware Reboot is a retreat I’ll wager it’s only a temporary one. As the title says, it’s a reboot rather than a surrender. And the more I listen to it, I’m convinced that, with Dreamware Reboot, Hacker Farm is playing the long game.
In some ways the band resembles Patrick Keiller’s eccentric explorer Robinson, gazing at the stunted, colonised countryside and, instead of despairing, attempting to open up imaginative spaces for new utopian communities among the ruins. For Robinson, hope sprang from imagining life after humans, but here the focus is still on humanity coming together to imagine a better future. As voice-artist Colleen Nika intones on Dreamcage No. 3: “Asleep we are nothing… together we are eternal, we are lightning, sea and stone … together we are an army, together we are one.”