Anja Huwe / Xmal Deutschland

Codes / Early Singles (1981–1982)

A collection of the early work from the German post-punks is released in the same week as the first solo album by the group's former frontwoman. Laviea Thomas investigates…

Anja Huwe’s involvement in the post-punk scene dates back to its earliest stages in 1980. Forming an experimental five-piece in Hamburg, Xmal Deutschland were an anti-establishment art and music project with a discography full of cutting-edge post-punk tracks. Consisting of frontwoman Huwe, plus Caro May, Rita Simon, Manuela Rickers and keyboardist Fiona Sangster, the group clawed at the patriarchy through their unconventional glam-rock looks and crunching doom-heavy cuts.

This Friday sees Huwe return to Xmal Deutschland for the release of their first full-length project in over three decades. Taking their fans back to the basics, Early Singles (1981–1982) is a compilation of eight releases taken from the vortex of their earliest work and features bonus tracks ‘Kälbermarsch’ and ‘Allein’.

Along with Early Singles (1981–1982)m Huwe is double-dropping, with the release of her debut solo album Codes. Having spent years crafting her sound and creative vision through the lens of Xmal Deutschland and in the arts, Huwe’s solo debut comes as a result of her collaboration with long-time friend Mona Mur.

Early Singles introductory track ‘Schwarze Welt’ quickly sets the tone with soaring guitars and looping vocals. As you make your way through the album, you’re swayed into melancholic tracks with eerie synths, like ‘Die Wolken’ and ‘Zu Jung Zu Alt’, and hyper-charged heavy-hitters such as ‘Großstadtindianer’, ‘Incubus Succubus’ and ‘Blut Ist Liebe’. A record full of danceable highs and mournful lows, Early Singles (1981–1982) perfectly encapsulates the legacy of Xmal Deutschland.

Putting her multilingual talents to use, Huwe adds a further layer of suspense to Codes as she frequently interchanges between German and English. For people who speak both languages, keeping up with the narrative is a piece of cake, but for those who don’t, you get to enjoy the opportunity of creating your own story through Huwe’s spell-binding delivery.

Doubling down on experimental electronica and distorted riffs, throughout Codes Huwe dives deep into themes of pain, loss, and loneliness. ‘Rabenschwarz’ is an easy album standout with production that swerves towards the techno side. ‘Pariah’ makes for a climactic follow-up with ominous echoes and a slightly 80s glam-rock edge. Codes sees the artist return to the music industry and her post-punk roots with a story to tell.

Although two completely separate entities, both projects honour post-punk tendencies through mesmeric spoken word, scratchy guitars and penetrative synths. In Early Singles (1981–1982) we see the rebirth of post-punk prodigy Xmal Deutschland and in Codes we see the very beginnings of what could be an intriguing new chapter for Huwe’s solo career.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today