Tucked away in a corner of Austria lies the little known talent of Anja Plaschg, better known as Soap&Skin. Plaschg began studying classical piano at age six, but her current music career could be termed as anything but traditional. She is quite experimental, often producing a dark, brooding sound that calls to mind the austere majesty of Bjork. Her voice? It isn't exactly pretty, with a very rough and ungainly quality. However, it does display an inner strength and raw passion, which is easy to admire.
Her sense of intensity that set her works apart, and at times cause her to verge on the border of eccentricity. But Plaschg also has a flair for electronica. Aphex Twin has been cited as one of her chief influences, who is certainly known for having a creepy side himself. March 27 saw the release of her half album Narrow, the followup to 2009's delightfully twisted Lovetune for a Vacuum. At only 27 minutes in length, it sometimes feels like you're only getting a halfway look at Plaschg. Still, many of her best qualities can be found here.
The opener, "Vater," features a slow buildup which gets hectic near the end and closes with a dramatic outro. "Wonder" has some nice harmonies, while "Deathmental" focuses on clinging and clanging electronics. "Cradlesong," which speaks of Plaschg's insecurities about the way people view her, also proves she's a powerful lyricist.
Among the more intriguing pieces is "Big Hand Nails Down." It's dark and oppressive electronic work meshes well with the heavy piano chords and her haunting howl of a voice. It possesses an almost industrial edge before lightening up later.
But the clear winner here is "Voyage Voyage," an absolutely heart rending tune, with powerful, breathtaking vocals. An incredible expression of sorrow and regret, I could easily see it being featured as the soundtrack to a foreign film. It makes me picture someone boarding a train never to return, while snowflakes drift to the ground.
Compared to its predecessor, Narrow is much more subdued and somber. Her two albums make an entirely different set of demands on the listener. Lovetune for a Vacuum bubbled and churned like a volcano, showing off the depth of Plaschg's fiery rage. At the same time, it also forced us to put up with a bit of over dramatization at times. I personally liked Soap&Skin for that out there, Bjork-like style, so if you're like me you may have a tough time initially digesting Narrow.
But there's still plenty to process with Narrow, which shows that Plaschg is just as adept communicating emotions from either end of the spectrum.