A Walk on the Wildest Side

Kiev Stingl
X R I Nuit
GERMANY KLANGBAD 84 12″ E.P. (2022)

There are times when I think I’ve led a fairly uneventful life, but after reading about the white-knuckle exploits of Kiev Stingl (“Germany’s enfant terrible” and a man who “embodies massive deviance…”), perhaps I’ve been dealt a fair hand after all. Redolent of say, an old grainy b/w episode of ITC’s Danger Man T.V. series, a particularly fraught time in Herr Stingl’s life began in Madagascar, February 1982, whilst being a guest of Jean-Pierre Martini, a maths professor at the University of Madagascar. That presumed idyll was shaken to its core when Kiev was arrested by the secret police, who accused him of helping the CIA in an attempted coup. He was then imprisoned, narrowly escaping a death sentence (!!) and was eventually smuggled out to Paris c/o the German Consulate General. Back from Paris and keen to add to his repertoire of albums, which included Teuflisch (Philips/1978) and Ich Wunsch den Deutscher Alles Gut (Ahorn/1981), a session at Teldec Studios in Hamburg was arranged with the help of ex City Preachers’ Götz Humpf on keys and guitar. This resulted in five numbers being recorded but only two saw release. Producer Achim Reichel‘s decision to shelve these tracks effectively putting the blocks on the career of one of the German underground’s most intriguing performers.

With reworkings courtesy of producer Niklas David, here’s what we missed…. The tick-tocking of an acoustic rhythm guitar locking in to the rusted shards of its electric counterpart (“Ozean”). On “Spiel den Brief”, Martin Rev is distracted by a Nintendo Gameboy, while Kiev’s sinister monologues, speaking of jealousy, poison and destruction hover overhead like a sulking black cloud. “Shang Hai Café” lightens the mood slightly and showcases Götz’s poignant and sensitively played Spanish guitar figures. The odd one out (from 1984) “Feu Follet” briefly fleshes out the set as a solo piano vamp. Its origins coming from the artist’s visits to a certain brothel in Hamburg’s ‘St Pauli’ district, where the kindly owner of said establishment would give him unlimited access to the eighty-eights. Exemplary customer service, I think you’ll agree. Even though these numbers are delivered in Kiev’s native tongue, one can easily detect a world-weary/resigned atmosphere, draped just so, over the furniture. Leonard Cohen’s New Skin… and Uncle Lou’s chin-on-floor operetta Berlin would be likely precursors to this worldview.

While being interviewed for Rolling Stone, Flake (?) of Rammstein said that “For us, Kiev Stingl was God!”. Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but the rediscovery of X R I Nuit does shine a welcome light on a skid patch masquerading as a career; details of which, and I’ll stick my neck out here, have never graced the pages of any of the British music weeklies at the time. Think of this as redressing the balance a little.