Formed in Sheffield by guitarist/tape manipulator Ron Wright, Hula furrowed a techno-industrial-multi-media path unmistakably influenced by Cabaret Voltaire (whose Stephen Mallinder produced their first single), yet fused with their own esoteric impulses into a unique strain of future- shock rock. Hula undercut its cluttered rhythms and flanged, ranting vocals with seriously funky bass and a disorienting melodic undertow; the media-overload of their live shows (employing at least a dozen film projectors) combined with the pulverizing music to build a mindbomb of epic proportions. Throughout its career, Hula released its best work on 45s, keeping its LP more deliberately experimental.
Cut From Inside and Murmur veer between funk, tribal, jazz-ish territory and noise; although the band’s fascination with media sometimes led it down aural blind alleys of tape-loops and grating noise, the hypno- ambient grooves of “Tear-Up” and “Mother Courage” are both timely and prescient.
By 1985, however, serious self-indulgence began to creep in. The two-record 1,000 Hours combines a thin- sounding live LP with a side each of more singles-oriented material and ominous, ambient drone. Likewise, Shadowland — a mostly improvised soundtrack to an art exhibit — is meandering and badly recorded drivel. Voice, which includes three songs produced by Mute supremo Daniel Miller, is relatively coherent and accessible, yet ironically less interesting. It does, however, contain one ace dance track (“Poison”).
The excellent Threshold singles compilation is by far Hula’s best release; it’s also the only one that consists predominantly of the throbbing, brutal techno-funk upon which the band built its reputation. The CD and cassette tack on three extra cuts.
Following the 1988 demise of Red Rhino, Hula (by then just Wright and bassist John Avery) disappeared from view. The band’s last release (its first on Wax Trax!) was a dreary “dance” version of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile,” aptly subtitled “Very slight return.”
Avery’s LP contains quiet, ambient instrumentals in an Eno/Bowie/Sylvian vein — hypnotic, cold atmospheres that would have made an excellent soundtrack to a Wim Wenders film.