Experimental /darkwave/indie from Austria, debut full-length album released in 2009.
Kids these days listen to the darndest things. So it follows that they're in a position to make the darndest music, which is one way, perhaps, to describe what Anja Plaschg is doing with Soap&Skin, a project that's already turned a few heads in the young singer's native Austria. Plaschg recorded Lovetune for Vacuum, her debut album, while still a teenager, and the record is in many ways a document of what an ugly, awkward, erratic-- and, occasionally, glorious and transcendent-- process growing up can be. Tracks teeming with tension and lyrics detailing obsession and strife rub right up against moments of clarity and respite, just as Plaschg's chosen instrument, the piano, is sometimes usurped by more gnarled sounds of electronic origin. For all its connotations of purity, a vacuum, after all, is also a place where you can't breathe.
Plaschg is part of a generation of music-lovers not bound by the strictures of geography and commerce, free to gorge on sounds in limitless abundance. So is it any wonder that Lovetune sounds like some unholy union of Nico and Regina Spektor and Aphex Twin and a sizable chunk of the Fonal and Monika rosters? And, sure, some You Are Free-era Cat Power too, and Autechre, and maybe Stina Nordenstam, and certainly Björk, and a good deal of the classical/art song vanguard as well. The Nico namedrop has the most currency, particularly given Plaschg's native tongue and the fact that she has already portrayed the iconic musician/model in a play back home. Indeed, it's tempting to posit Lovetune as the sort of record Nico might be making today had she not taken off on her bicycle that fateful day in 1988.
Which brings us to Plaschg's most singular quality: her voice, a thing of great authority but not much grace that helps smooth over the parade of influences here into a unified whole. Even when she attempts the ethereal, as on "Cry Wolf", that voice still has an earthy, guttural weight to it, and when she uncloaks it completely to let out a full-on scream on "Spiracle" (live YouTube clips of this are worth seeking out), it blasts forth with all the violent colors of German Expressionist painting. There's a beauty-in-ugliness thing going on through much of Lovetune, in fact. "Marche Funèbre" throbs along on clusters of dense strings rendered severe and imposing by repetition, while the clatter of toys on "Cry Wolf" (the most Fonal-like moment here) sounds grating even as it suggests a yearning toward childhood. "Wolf" has an interesting parallel in the similarly clattery "DDMMYYYY", only there the toys have mutated into demon typewriters and fax machines performing what sounds like a rather nasty dissection. Call it growing pains.
Elsewhere, such as on "Turbine Womb" and "Brother of Sleep", Plaschg's piano conjures images of serene repose, a temporary calm within the emotional storm that is just about any teen's inner state. "Extinguish Me" and "Mr. Gaunt Pt 1000" even tend toward the saccharine. She may be synthesizing a whole mess of influences, but there's no questioning Plaschg's talent for marrying what we might consider "comfort music"-- sentimental, indulgent fare that's easy to cling to-- and the "distance music" of her more outré electronic and classical forbearers. By the end of closing track "Brother of Sleep", all is becalmed, right on through to the quiet sounds of the natural world that occupy the track's final minute. Yet just when we think it's over, along comes a single, ominous drum beat, suggesting the cycle of alternating clarity and agitation is poised to begin yet again. Soap has the ability to cleanse, but misapplied, it sure can sting too.
Soap&Skin is the experimental musical project of Austrian artist Anja Plaschg (born 5 April 1990).
Anja Plaschg grew up in a small village called Gnas in south east Styria, where her parents have a farm. She has played piano since she was six. At the age of 14 she began violin studies and developed an interest in electronic music. She attended the Graz Polytechnic for Graphic Design, but dropped out at 16 and moved to Vienna shortly afterwards. There she studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in the master class of Daniel Richter, but at 18 dropped out again.
Musicians like Xiu Xiu, Cat Power, Björk, Nico, Aphex Twin and composers like Sergei Rachmaninoff or Arvo Pärt have had a great impact on her music.
After only playing a handful of concerts she was already being dubbed a “Wunderkind”. In 2008 she played German singer Nico in the play “Nico - Sphinx aus Eis” by Werner Fritsch in Berlin and Vienna, performing several songs in it, including “Janitor Of Lunacy”, from her first EP.
Her first album, called “Lovetune for Vacuum”, was released in March 2009. It received excellent reviews and placed in the Austrian Top 10. The album also achieved chart positions in Germany, Belgium and France. Music journalists have already claimed to see in her a new star of Austrian pop.