Bands

Anja Huwe Debuts New Solo Track “Pariah” — Plus Listen to the Original Version of Xmal Deutschland’s “Incubus Succubus”

Sacred Bones has just unveiled two more tracks from the parallel releases of Xmal Deutschland’sEarly Singles 1981-1982 (including two bonus tracks) and the debut solo album from Xmal Deutschland’s inimitable front-woman Anja Huwe, ‘Codes.’ Both records are set for release side-by-side on March 8th, 2024.

Throughout the 1980s, Xmal Deutschland distinguished themselves with a voracious and unwavering approach to their art. Their distinctive aesthetic, characterized by bold hairstyles and intense, kohl-rimmed eyes, mirrored the complex nature of their music, which combined relentless energy with a nuanced finesse. This blend allowed them to break free from the confines of the “Neue Deutsche Welle” movement, differentiating them from peers like DAF and Einstürzende Neubauten.

Xmal Deutschland embraced punk’s bold break from traditional norms, finding solace in its anti-establishment ethos—a stark contrast to the rigid conventions of the past. Their recording debut, the single Schwarze Welt, was characterized by an unforeseen turn of events: Rita Simon, the intended lead vocalist, was unexpectedly absent on the day of recording. This twist of fate thrust Anja Huwe, initially the bassist, into the spotlight as the lead singer. Despite her initial hesitations, she stepped into the role, marking a significant shift in the band’s trajectory.

“The only condition from my side [was that] I will never perform onstage,” she reflects. “Two months later, they made me without ever telling me up front. I had no choice.”Their breakthrough came with the release of Incubus Succubus in 1982, a pivotal moment that was further amplified by a landmark performance in London the same year, where they opened for the Cocteau Twins. This event propelled them into the spotlight, attracting an avant-garde audience characterized by torn fishnets and a penchant for the unconventional.

Listen to the original version of the single “Incubus Succubus” below:

 Schwarze Welt was released on the local punk label, ZickZack, in 1981 and introduced the band as an unsettling swarm of intensity. The characterization of Xmal Deutschland primarily as a female ensemble—a notion later playfully amended with the inclusion of Wolfgang Ellerbrock, who became the group’s lone male counterpart—gained momentum within the circles of media, a fascination propelled as much by their visual appeal as by their musical prowess. We were like paradise birds,” Huwe wryly remembers. “We as girls, especially being creative in many ways, ignored facts like: be nice, be polite, take good care about your looks. Of course, we wanted to look good but in a different and unconventional way. We were enough for ourselves.”

Following Xmal Deutschland’s distinguished run, marked by four albums released under esteemed labels like 4AD, Anja Huwe shifted her creative focus, leaving the musical stage to delve into the realm of visual arts. However, this transition did not mean an effortless departure from her musical legacy; the echoes of her past endeavors lingered.

“Since the split in the early 1990s, I have been haunted by the ‘Legend of Xmal Deutschland’ and never-ending requests from all over the world, all of which I always turned down,” she says.

Early Singles (1981-1982) is a map of their foundational movements, just seconds before takeoff. The band’s pursuit of something greater is palpable with this release, a reflection of a time that introduced accessibility to new means of making music following the onset of punk. This reissue includes two bonus tracks; Kaelbermarsch (originally from the compilation Lieber Zuviel Als Zuwenig) and a gritty live version of Allein (originally from the compilation Nosferatu Festival), which is shared online today along with a video montage of footage from this era of the band’s career.

Pre-order ‘Early Singles (1981-1982) here.

Pariah is the second offering from the debut solo release from Anja Huwe. Invited by her long-time friend Mona Mur, Huwe reconsidered her decades-long hiatus from music and decided to join Mur in her studio in Berlin. Together, they worked for a year and a half, composing, performing and producing the tracks from scratch which eventually became the album Codes.

The razor-sharp new single shows the intentional interchange between languages on the record: “Since I sing multilingually, and often work with metaphors, I hope that the listener can grasp the moods without understanding them literally. I believe that voice, expression, and sound can achieve an overall atmosphere. Sometimes melancholic and blue, but also uplifting, vibrant, or subliminally aggressive.”

Listen to “Pariah” below:

Initially inspired by the diary entries of Moshe Shnitzki, who, at the age of 17, left his home in 1942 to live in the cavernous White Russian forests as a partisan, Codes is about the human experience and what extremes can do to an individual. The result is a poetic, musical cosmos that encompasses the following themes: forest, fear, pain, loss, violence, and loneliness but also beauty, longing, hope and the will to survive,” Huwe explains.

The thematic extremities cause an erraticism to Codes—a passing thunderstorm, a cyclonic burst of nature’s force—but one that exudes anticipation amidst the chill. With elegant production by Mur and Huwe and mixing and mastering by Jon Caffery (Joy Division, Gary Numan, Einstürzende Neubauten) epic builds crash and disseminate, the sleek synthesised drones of sound even feel claustrophobic at times.

Pre-order Codes here. 

Follow Anja Huwe:

Alice Teeple

Alice Teeple is a photographer, multidisciplinary artist, and writer. She is not in Tin Machine.

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