Hula - Shadowland [Klanggalerie - 2019]Originally released back 1986 Shadowland was the third album from Sheffield band Hula. The album is a decidedly abstract and shifting affair that darts between post-industrial ambience, throbbing synth bass lines, clunking ‘n’ stripped back industrial sound-scaping, moody noise-making, and wayward vocal elements- at times things become more coherent & structured taking in elements of synth-pop, white funk, and smooth jazz horns- but mainly Shadowland, fitting its title is a strange & heady journey. On Austrian label Klanggalerie here we have a recent CD reissue of the album- bringing together the albums two original long-form tracks, with a selection of shorter tracks from the period.
Hula were a four-to six-piece band that formed in Sheffield in 1981- with their sound moving between white funk edged with paranoid vocals , dub, industrial, edgy/ experimental synth-pop, and more abstract sonic waters like the album to hand. In-between 1983 and 1987 the band produced five albums, and a good selection of singles and Ep’s.
The Shadowland album came about due to a live event organized by the Sheffield arts department- with the band presenting two decidedly lose and episodic tracks. "Shadowland part 1" was the longer of the two comings in at twenty-four minutes, with "Shadowland part 2" coming in at a slightly shorter eighteen-minute mark. It’s difficult to fully charter each of the tracks soundworlds- as really each has a very loose/ flowing structure- so instead I’ll try and run down what's on offer over both parts. We move from wind-up beat scaping and hazy sample nets, onto wavering blends of blunt electronics, wonky synth tones & snapping beats. Through brooding & unsettling post-industrial ambient sometimes touched with looped samples, onto blends of bright white neon-lit stark funk, baby sounds, and buried chanting vocals. Moving into tolling synth scaping with loose industrial percussion & more abstract synthetic horn drifts, over to buried avant synth-pop chants, through to wound and stretched avant electronics over ethnic like percussion swifts. Both tracks shift a lot, but most importantly it always seems to have some point/rewarding flow- making both tracks into a worthy & eventful trip.
Topping off the release we get three shorter tracks- these move from the rising-though still wonky & noise edged funk meets synth-pop & sailing sax lines of “Black Wall Blue”. Onto the densely swarming & woozy munching post-industrial vibe of “Stocky” with its constantly clip-clopping electro beats, off-color blend of string & guitar saw, and buzzing fly like tones. Though to “2 AM” and it’s sparsely sinister blend of muffled bass pluses, scrubbing moodiness, tolling bells, and sudden darting male vocals. Normally bonus tracks don’t work in the context of albums- but these three do fit in with the two prior tracks all making for a rewardingly flowing fifty six-minute album.
So, in conclusion, Klanggalerie have done it again with this release of Shadowland- uncovered another great and distinct slice of experimental music from the past. So if you like the more abstract/moody side of 1980’s post-industrial sound-making- with few formal & popular 80’s genre touches here and there, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy this release.Roger Batty