Narrow, Soap & Skin, Pias, 19 March 2012
Narrow, Anja Plaschg’s second release as Soap & Skin, is a slender and sombre collection of songs. The tone is set by opener, ‘Vater’, a powerful piano driven track which recalls the death of Plaschg’s father in 2009. Plaschg is 21 – there isn’t a good age to lose a father and although 21 is young, Plaschg has the emotional maturity to attempt to translate her loss into music. It works. Yet, this makes the next track on the record, ‘Voyage Voyage’, initially seem an incongruous choice to follow it. ‘Voyage Voyage’ is a cover version of the Euro-Disco hit by Desireless. Until it received the Plaschg treatment, this song was probably played at parties; now its potential to describe regret and longing is fully exploited and enunciated through Plaschg’s deep voiced rendering. It’s the track on Narrow which draws the clearest comparisons between Plaschg’s vocals and Nico’s. The comparisons are not entirely coincidental; Plaschg doesn’t hide the influence she takes from her fellow native German speaker and former Velvet Underground collaborator. In 2008, Plaschg played Nico in a play performing some of Nico’s songs in that performance and the cross-over between her and Nico has stuck.
From the moving tides of ‘Voyage Voyage’s refrain, (something you will find yourself singing under-breath constantly) Narrow moves on to furious, downbeats as fists swinging, ‘Deathmental’. The title describes this song more fully than a review can. It’s Plaschg’s death metal song. In which she goes a bit mental. In a really good way. The remainder of Narrow is a slow comedown, tempered with regret. A strain of sadness distils through ‘Cradlesong’, ‘Wonder’, ‘Lost’. There is this sense of waters rising through the record. Not so much flood water but a steady inevitable rising of water around you, or even that you are sinking. The record cover shows a close up of Plaschg’s face, with darkness encroaching all around it. The final couplet of songs on this mini-album, ‘Boat Turns Towards the Port’ and ‘Big Hand Nails Down’, complete this impression: a beautiful submission to sorrow and an angry refusal to despair.
Let the girls are know what you think of this gorgeous record. What do you think of Plaschg’s rendering of sorrow? What does the record name mean?