[sic] Magazine

Soap & Skin – Lovetune For Vacuum

Bolt out of the blue time. One of the very many remarkable things about this debut album is that it that the Austrian artist behind it – Anja Plaschg – is only 18. At 18 years of age I was fumbling around with not a clue about very much at all, let alone on how to make an album as extraordinary as this. I still couldn’t produce an album as extraordinary as this by the way though I do have a rather more informed and rounded approach to life in general. At least I think so anyway.

Enough about me. I came across Soap & Skin quite by chance (just surfing the net, a good way to discover new music I have discovered) but feel I was fated to hear this music. It is quite breathtaking in it’s complexity and it’s off-kilter approach to song writing. It is quite difficult to describe without resorting solely to the metaphorical but I will try. Plaschg is a talented pianist and the piano is the central instrument for most of these songs. These are not however your average torch ballads (though there is an element of that in them) Each song is an idiosyncratic mini drama of it’s own though there is also a jarring juxtaposition of the conventional instruments with non-natural sounds- very much like Scott Walker on his last album The Drift.

’Fall Foliage’ sounds like in been recorded in a games arcade with it’s rasping bleeps and whooshing sounds. ‘Sleep’, ‘Cry Wolf’ and ‘Turbine Womb’ have a weird clicking sound, like an insect on amphetamines cleaning itself. ‘Ddmmyyyy’ has the raspy bellows like the breathing of some vast entity over pitter patters of electronic percussion and strangulated synths- the soundtrack to a nightmare which given some panicky vocals late is further confirmed. Most pertinent is ‘Marche Funebre’ where theatrical electronic strings gesticulate over rumbling percussion before a piercing whistle blasts across the arrangement.

This sort of kookiness could be hugely irritating but on this song it works. Plaschg seems to know instinctively when to play it straight (the classical strains of ‘Spiracle’ or the overcast chamber number ‘Mr Gaunt Pt 1000’) and when to subvert or twist a song in wild directions. It’s an approach to be admired and it’s one she also brings to her vocals Her range veers from almost baritone sombre to airy vibrato to nails down the blackboard dissonance. The lyrics are impenetrable and it’s the way a song is sung which is crucial to the mood more than anything. ‘Brother of Sleep ‘ sounds tremendously sad because of the requiem like vocals, though the plaintive flute and sympatric piano help. The extended play out with bird song and a deep bass grumble further confirms Lovetune For Vacuum as an album constantly on the cusp of a revelation.

Comparisons could be made with Bjork with whom she shares a left -field sensibility and there is touch of Joan Wasser in the more basic piano numbers but really Anja Plaschg is out there in a little genre of her own. What that is ….well how about metabaticpop? Disembowelled torch songs? I dunno. Listen to this album; make your own mind up. Fill up your vacuum with some of these love tunes and marvel.