The main reason I have a hunch that it *wasn't* the Fairlight doing the drums is because I have a feeling I've seen in interviews references to Del programming the drum machine, and thinking they used a Linn drum. And having a quick look before I started to second guess myself, I just found this online from a Q magazine interview:
"For the most part, time has been kind to Hounds of Love. Only the clanking, robotic omnipresence of Palmer's Linn drum machine (the pulse of every over-produced record of its decade) dates the sound, its size tens trampling all over the insistent opener Running Up that Hill (A Deal with God)."
Hey, a music magazine review, doesn't particularly mean much for technical accuracy of course, but it's what my subconscious is telling me...
I still reckon it was a more conventional drum machine doing the drums, with the Fairlight put to more creative uses than just using it's limited resources to do what another piece of hardware could do equally well. And Linn's were still popular and fashionable and the sound of pop, to a certain extent...
Kate's own words, talking about Hounds of Love:
"This takes us into The Morning Fog. "Morning Fog" is the symbol of light and hope. It's the end of the side, and if you ever have any control over endings they should always, I feel, have some kind of light in there. This was originally written to a Linn drum machine.
I wrote, on the Fairlight, an instrumental piece of music using the sample of an acoustic guitar. I then later wrote the song on top of this instrumental, building up the voices in layers. The piece I'd written on the Fairlight was transcribed by Dave Lawson for an acoustic guitar player, and I felt that really one of the best people to play this was John Williams, a superb classical guitarist who I had met on a couple of occasions before when I was working at Abbey Road. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask him if he'd like to play on a track. We added Del's fretless bass, Kevin on synth, and built up the backing vocals; then Pad layered up Appalachian fiddles and fujare. We kept the guide vocal as the master voice and mixed up the last track on the album."
So, they definitely had a Linn of some flavour in the studio... (a bit early for a 9000 too*).
So time to check out those Linndrum/LM1/2 samples again...
*Edit: No, Linn 9000 was produced in '84-'86 apparently, so it's not too early.
And then this was interesting:
"Palmer programmed the record’s skeletal pulse on a Lynn drum machine, and those tracks were often saved and used and overdubbed by drummers playing live to the static beat – this is really the groundwork for the unique sound on Hounds of Love. It’s Stuart Elliott who plays on the majestic, holy “Running up that Hill”, which opens the album and made the exceptionally British Kate Bush a star in the US. Elliott truly found her internal timings. “His drumming is the most emotional I know,” acknowledged the delighted artist. “He’s always interested in the songs and the lyrics and has a way of creating the right mood for a track."
My hunch was that the toms sound too good to be an early drum machine. Toms were notoriously bad on those things, getting realistic tom fills was almost impossible. The above paragraph seems to back this up.
Gut feeling: Linn kick and snare, real toms (or at least, real toms with Linn toms underneath). The timing is pretty loose for an early drum machine...
Some other snippets my google fu has turned up:
Opening song on the album Hounds Of Love. Originally titled A Deal With God, this song began when Kate asked Del to program a drum machine rhythm for her. She used the Fairlight to produce a droning sound over the rhythm, and from there the song practically wrote itself.