Last Night at the Lyceum (03/05/85)

I bought this one on tape from a record fair in Crawley in '85, not long before I first saw them live. It's a great set spanning the Zick Zack days, Fetisch, Tocsin, Der Wind from the Peel Sessions release (one of my favourites) and the then forthcoming Viva. Tracklisting:

Polar Licht
Tag Fur Tag
Der Wind
Jahr Um Jahr
Augen Blick
Zu Jung Zu Alt
Polar Licht

This is the first of my tapes to get the digitisation treatment. The quality isn't great and the cassette was in pretty bad shape (I had to un-knot it after the first attempt to play, hence the intro has been cut down a bit), but I buffed up the resulting file with Audacity and it's sounding much better (although the noise removal process has created a few artefacts in some of the intros - apologies).

[mp3 192kbps]

Hammersmith Clarendon, London W10 (07/07/83)

The excellent Kill Your Pet Puppy archive has posted a couple of X-Mal items: a rip of the Zick Zack Incubus 12-inch, and this partial live recording of a Fetisch-era gig at the Clarendon. Track listing:

Hand In Hand
Young Man
Incubus Succubus
Sehnsucht (part)

Nice work fellas!

Viva viva - ein neues Jahr!

Well, it's been a long time since I posted anything here, so it's time to make amends.

I've been very excited to find a few worthy X-Mal downloads appearing on mp3 blogs. From the "Mehr Licht! unbound" blog are these must-haves: The other Peel Sessions (1982, 83 and 84) and the Janice Long session (1986). Also available is a rip of the lovingly-compiled bootleg CDRs of all the X-Mal singles: Singled Out (also here).

I've finally got my act together to start digitising the few X-Mal bootlegs I own myself, so those will go up soon. Hopefully it will encourage others to share their live recordings. It would also be great to hear any demos (particularly those for "Devils", which are allegedly much more like the X-Mal of yore than the later slimmed-down soft-rock incarnation).

Since I'm about to start posting some mp3s, I'll quickly note my own perspective on the whole ethics debate. My view is that mp3 blogs are a great way to archive and share otherwise unavailable material with fellow fans, but I don't like copyright theft, particularly of material that's readily available elsewhere or might get an official re-release, so I won't be posting any of the official releases here.

If you're a fan of X-Mal and don't already have all the official releases, you can still buy the 4AD CDs ("Fetisch" and "Tocsin") from Amazon (or secondhand from Gemm), or - better still - get them cheaper, save resources and let the artists get a royalty by downloading them from eMusic.

The two later CDs ("Viva" and "Devils") are long since out of print, but still pop up occasionally on eBay.


More on Manuela Zwingman from this All About Eve site: "A 5 track demo tape was recorded and sent to various record companies. The demo contained : D For Desire, This Isn't Heaven, This Trembling Hand, Fate Flies, and No Sleep Until Dawn. Through Manuela’s and Julianne's X-Mal and Jezebel contacts, Red Rhino offered them a short term deal, giving them their own Eden label. After recording the first single in May 85 at Southern studios, Manuela left the band to have a baby, while bass player James joined Test Department. In the 15 months The Swarm existed, they never played live."
From Le Label 4AD... "Apr├Ęs Tocsin, leur second album, Ivo leur conseille de trouver un label plus important et 'ils ont cru que je les laissais tomber!'". Roughly translates to: "After Tocsin, their second album, Ivo advised them to find a more significant label and 'they thought that I'd dropped them!'".
"Hamburg, Germany's Xmal Deutschland impressed Ivo with an "incredibly raw" demo tape whose live power was never completely captured in the studio. Nevertheless, the spiky intensity of the four-woman, one-man band proved compelling enough on their debut album Fetisch (CAD 302) and two subsequent singles--a different version of the album's lead-off track "Qual" (BAD 305) and a re-recorded and extended version of Xmal's pre-4AD debut "Incubus Succubus II" (BAD 311)--to capture the attention of John Peel and a substantial UK audience. Live performance proved to be the band's real strength: Ivo recalls a particularly memorable show from this period where Xmal, opening for the Cocteau Twins at one of The Venue's 4AD showcases, won over a crowd of aloof scenesters in a matter of moments." (From 4ad-(the perfect antidote)).
A bit of rummaging under the stairs has brought my yellowing X-Mal clippings to light; various reviews and interviews from the music press, plus full features from Zig Zag and Record Mirror. Scanning and transcribing to follow...


Funny how the act of casting one's mind back brings back a flood of memories... anyhoo, back in autumn / winter 1994 I'm sure I read in Melody Maker that a band called "Whiteout", who featured former X-Mal members, were about to release something or tour. I remember seeing an ad for a gig in Camden that seemed to be them, but I wasn't able to go. That same evening I was watching The Word (yep, shame) and they had a band on called "The Whiteouts", which turned out to be some dreary Indie tosh, with no X-Mal folk in sight. I may be mixed up about which band was which. Can anyone help?
According to Sebastian Mundt's posting to this archived thread at www.evo.org, Manuela Rickers and Peter Bellendir worked with The Rossburger Report during the period 1992-4, during which time the band recorded sessions for German radio station NDR and helped create the band's live reputation (particularly striking for including something like 25 guitarists according to one posting!). The Rossburger Report contributed a track to the 1997 compilation CD Slow Death in the Metronome Factory, although it's probably unlikely that there was any ex-X-Mal involvement by then.
A one-page but well crafted biography can be found at sonicnet.com... random quote: "The debut Fetisch highlighted a sound that tied them firmly to both their Germanic ancestry and the hallmark spectral musicianship of their new label. Huwe's voice in particular, was used as a fifth instrument, making the cultural barrier redundant."
Entirely unconnected, but for completeness' sake... Rudolf Walter Leonhardt wrote an book called "X-mal Deutschland" in 1961. I bought an English translation of it from eBay; it's a history of post-WWII Germany.
The best X-Mal resource I've found so far is Poison Door... it's got a great photo collection, spanning their whole career, right from the days of the all-female line-up (Anja Huwe vox, Manuela Rickers guitar, Fiona Sangster keys, Rita Simon bass, Caro May drums) and their multicoloured hair. The biography is in German (which I can't speak, but I ran it through BabelFish); apparently, Anja Huwe emerged again briefly as a co-presenter of a music gameshow on NDR television.
Family tree: After Fetisch, drummer Manuela Zwingman left X-Mal and teamed up with Julianne Regan (bass player with Gene Loves Jezebel, who supported X-Mal numerous times) as The Swarm in February 1984, later - with the arrival of Tim Bricheno and Andy Cousin - to become All About Eve. Manuela stayed for one record - "D for Desire"... I used to have it on 12-inch, but (out of a mixture of kindness and desparation) swapped it for a pack of guitar strings (Goth Graham - where are you now?).
UK music newspaper Sounds was a great champion of the band (it was through their album reviews page that I first heard of X-Mal), and - when Sounds folded - Melody Maker continued the trend. Two writers in particular spring to mind - Chris Roberts and Mick Sinclair. Mick's December 1983 Sounds feature on the band is transcribed here. Chris Roberts' March 1987 feature from Melody Maker is transcribed here.
Welcome to an X-Mal Deutschland blog. I'm researching, websurfing and collating material on the band. If you have any information (no matter how trivial) or corrections please email them. All contributions will be much appreciated and fully acknowledged. Thanks... and keep visiting!