Young Austrian singer Anja Plaschg debuts with a darkly intriguing album that combines references as disparate as Regina Spektor and Autechre.
Achtung: Letzte verfügbare Teile!
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.
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