“Hitman’s Heel” is the latest project by Einstürzende Neubauten axe-wielder, musico-anthropologist and incongruous rock god Alex Hacke with singer, multi-instrumentalist, artist and Love Parade co-founder Danielle de Picciotto. Who are also, as it happens, married. A significant break from both Neubauten and their Lovecraftian ambient soundscape work, “Hitman’s Heel” is an excursion into unhealthy Americana, troubling blues and haunted fairytales, drawing on Tom Waits and Nick Cave as obvious points of reference but creeping off from there deep into the woods.
Opener “The Circuit” is a classic circus-of-the-grotesque number, with Hacke’s oddly blended accent giving it a similar Central European feel to Waits’ “Black Rider” soundtrack. Perhaps unfortunately, this is among the quirkiest of the tracks on the album, leaving an expectation of sinister playfulness which isn’t lived up to entirely. Most of his later vocal contributions are on more robust alt.blues-rock tracks, but somehow the title track manages to sound like late ’60s or early ’70s psychedelic rock – Iron Butterfly meets Led Zeppelin. Not two names I would have expected to invoke on Connexion Bizarre. The ones with Picciotto singing are a little more delicate and unworldly, and bring to mind the likes of Miranda Sex Garden, or Rose McDowall’s neofolk collaborations.
Not exactly the album I hoped it would be from the first track, but also not disappointing. It makes up for the occasionally pedestrian nature of some of the middle tracks by finishing with “Nauseous Waltz”, a WTF-inducing dadaist country ballad that delivers surrealistic word- and sound-play cut-ups in a completely straight-faced tear-jerking drawl. Roy Rogers meets Kurt Schwitters? If anyone can pull that off, Hacke can.
— Andrew Clegg