Who is she (sort of)?
From Soap&Skin’s pleasantly nocturnal vocals— ranging from heavenly light to wintrily heavy—and the classically charming (and often industrial and ambient) instrumentation of Lovetune for Vacuum (2009) to her newest EP, Sugarbread (2013), Anja Plaschg’s artistry is limitless as it is brilliant. Once you’ve heard the heart-breaking dreams of Soap&Skin, it’s almost impossible not to, at least, feel what she feels.
A native of a pig farm in a rural Austrian town, Anja is made from unique beginnings, but that’s typical, in my research, of a would-be-called “Wunderkinds.” And it certainly shows through her shyness; on the other hand, her high EQ gives life to an incredible power, certainly, heard in her 2012 LP: Narrow. (Although 2014 seems a bit late to examining this album and/or too early to be looking back, I think it’s founded.)
A Track by Track Examination of Narrow:
“Vater,” written and recorded in her mother tongue, is one of the most impressive songs I’ve heard in the past couple of years. It encompasses the grief-journey—specifically, the death of her father—via the beginning soft, somber melodies to frightening, inner-turmoil bridge with a goose bump-inducing finale. Apparently, it took her about three years to complete—it shows and, impressively, sounds all-natural with all the rungs of despair.
The next song is a cover of what is a lovely, yet probably forgettable, French pop song: “Voyage Voyage” by Desireless. The dimness of this version makes it deliciously mystic and there is, obviously, something cultured about it. It’s not regrettable that the 80’s-ness is lost, because something else is gained.
“Deathmental” comes in strong, but not classically strong: mechanically strong. The pounding beats ride with the reserved music, horns, and strings, as the beautiful Anja sings,
You once seemed to love/ The tumbling of infarction/The oddments of destruction.
Curiously, the lyrics seem to describe, not only the shattering emotions of this track (obviously), but the music itself: A crumbling psyche of sounds in the face of a damaged heart.
Anja is impressive with titles. “Cradlesong” does just that: the song feels like a lullaby to a child, which it was probably meant to be. It, also, seems like dissociation in a mother-child relationship. She sings,
Foreign what my lips say/Foreign my hair, my dress/ Foreign what your eyes ask/about this strangeness.
This song is attractive to me for another reason: experience speaking to innocence from a place of unfiltered love.
“Why we can’t be/ Or see who cuts us asunder?” Those shivering lyrics assure me that there is something spiritual about “Wonder.” The longing for the departed rings through with a hopeful shine, in Soap&Skin’s songwriting. A chorus of an elder, ghost-like choir accompanies and adds to the painfulness of this track. It can be a real nostalgic tear-jerker and/or a stream that might make you feel like your pleading grief is understood.
This one may be about death or the loneliest break-up that most of us have experienced. Clocks, waiting, and boredom are the big images and ideas here; however, throughout the song, at possibly the peak, there is a sense of realization that this sad person is never coming back and there is a question of who controls both of their time and fate. Ending with the grounding lyric: “I really lost you.”
There are crunchy sounds behind her and the rest of the music, but the dreamiest of all is the music box and the wordless chorus. It reminds of a haunted visit to grandmother’s house or lost-at-sea, gray-cloud journey that is finally returning (obviously, the latter is more applicable). It’s an honest song, which adds, funnily, to the charm.
The timer clicking and mad scientist sounds of “Big Hands Nail Down” creates an atmosphere that feels anxious and enraged. It’s powerful. As you can hear from the lyrics, it appears this could be a response to “Cradlesong:” At the end of life, opposed to the beginning. It’s a perfectly, pleasantly dark note to end on.
Bradley, born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, is now full-time student at University of Louisiana at Lafayette majoring in Psychology and English, and he plans to go to graduate school and teach at the college level; however, he has dreams of supporting himself through writing and/or comedy.