Tapetenwechsel?
15.02.2012
» musik

For Father, Forever Ago

von Stefan Niederwieser  


Along the way, Soap & Skin saves the Kunstlied with her nearly not released album „Narrow“.

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Long time in use, we now abandon him: The author. Or to be more precise: the death of the author. What else can Soap & Skin do, so nobody any longer supposes, somebody just came up with the project of Soap & Skin and everything was just staged. Written, arranged, performed and produced by Anja Plaschg. In other words: Anja Plaschg made the music by herself. She recorded, planed, converted, composed, realized, accomplished and finally toned her music. While you could still wonder if there were two or three people looming in the background, pulling the strings for a seventeen year old Wunderkind who got cover stories by the dozen, when the first album came out in 2009, every shadow of a doubt disappears with “Narrow”. Her contact with FM4-patron Fritz Ostermayer has cooled down, even though he wrote the extraordinary press-text for „Narrow“. Her ex-CEO Oliver Kamien now works at Soap & Skins Label Solfo and assists her, implementing the bigger vision. Yes, Soap & Skin started her own label. That’s her, who demands a high standard on concert promoters. She denies certain interviews, the cover art is her choice and with her sister she chooses the artwork. Soap & Skin is trying to keep every string of her work in her control, she’s trying to make the veil between her music and the listeners disappear. Written, arranged, performed and produced by Anja Plaschg. The death of the author was an important concept. Here, it gets abolished with force. Bye bye, see you soon. Entry Soap & Skin.

Da Capo

Early 2009, Soap & Skin wrote one of the most important albums coming out of Austria in the last twelve years. Even if you can’t deal with her drama, her expressivity and her deeply Austrian obsession with death, try to appreciate at least this one thing of hers: absolute autonomy. Nothing else sounded like this consolation of Folk, rough piano, electronic avant-garde, Kunstlied and intensity. Nothing. Nowhere. She was played and acclaimed, and then real death broke into her world.

During the interview in Vienna, Soap & Skin is distant, maybe uncertain, maybe drunk of a much too expensive rum, but in any way tight-lipped. She tends to answer with gestures and glances. But if there is something to talk about, she does. For example when she’s asked how many recording takes she needs for her voice – a lot, sometimes even for every word.

Soap & Skin found confidence in her voice, and at first glance, that’s the most striking change in the recent months. Every syllable, every phrasing, every sound and every pitch is precisely performed. There are exact down pitches, double pitches, sometimes syllables are sung more open or harder as you would normally suggest. Sometimes so heavily, that Soap & Skin overused her voice and wore it out. After performing live, she feels like she has constantly shouted for half an hour. It is borderline, singing with such pressure at this pitch, somewhere between chest voice and head voice. She tries to overcome the strain of her voice with training and exhausts her organ in the meantime. Her tone changed, her voice is stronger, more accentuated now and almost not modified or processed. Even here, you can hear her quest for something so outdated as truthfulness.

Exposition

Bon Iver, The Antlers or Perfume Genius also sought that kind of truthfulness. The internet has lots of stories about them, when they were suffering in lonely huts or hospitals. All this pain and shaping the torment into songs, was the starting point of their career. In folk music pain is almost such an undisputable proof of authenticity as bullet wounds are for rappers.

You know that on an abstract level. But how strange is it to hear the story of the death of a father and how Soap & Skin – or Anja? – almost got sucked up by it. For almost nine months she wasn’t able to make music. She received medical treatment until she couldn’t stand the pills any longer and retreated to a small Italian village to recover. During all this time, she didn’t know how to finish „Vater“ – the opening song of her new album. Only until this song started to take shape, other fragments grew up to something she wanted to release. Soap & Skin knows that she just gave her shocking personal story to the press at that very moment of the interview. But would „Narrow“ be less dramatic without knowing all this? Probably not. For her, it would be even more strange, if she didn’t tell this story at all. Even more so, she always worked heavily on the topic of death.

At the end of „Vater“ her voice, piano, computer, strings and horns lead to a triumphant finale. The sounds of „Narrow“ are more classic, narrowed and expressive. You can’t hear the electronic alienation of „Lovetune For Vacuum“ anymore, as well as all the organs, whistles or the hurdy-gurdy. Soap & Skin goes minimal. Along the way, she also saves the Kunstlied.

Besides all brilliant songs, the internal rhythm of „Narrow“ seems to be distorted. The Album splits into parts and fragments – which is easy to overcome: „Wonder“ is a bipolar gospel, touching and shallow at the same time. „Deathmental“ is a canon, hanging loose in a never-ending desperation. Those two songs alone are worth the listen.

Reprise

After her debut three years ago, Soap & Skin has glanced at the world of pop’s face. On invitation by Leonard Cohen she opened for Patti Smith at the Royal Festival Hall in London. In Paris she played innocuous cover versions of Velvet Underground with band members from Radiohead, Air and Supergrass. When she declined to perform „Femme Fatale“, Feist was in town and stepped in for her. But there were serious matters going on too. For the collaboration with Apparat, Soap & Skin converted gloomy scenes of Fritz Lang into a pulsating rhythm of fate. For her, acting, media art, photography and blogging are just extensions of the same matter. A duet with Andreas Spechtl of Ja, Panik quite unexpectedly brought the topics of society and money into her bubble. Politics usually are no subject for Soap & Skins work, it even disgusts her in some kind of ways. Nevertheless, the cover of Ja Paniks Song „Trouble“ is scheduled to be released.

Coda

„Narrow“ hasn’t turned out to be Soap & Skins new monument, its more like a gaping wound. All the biography-trash was responsible. Soap & Skin has sharpened her expression and given herself a new voice. On the quest of truthfulness, she tries everything, so that the wall between her and the listeners collapses. Maybe the next album will be a self-titled LP „Soap & Skin“ by Soap & Skin, just like Bon Iver did after releasing his album on isolation „For Emma, Forever Ago“. Written, arranged, performed and produced by Anja Plaschg. Exeunt. Da Capo.

 

»Narrow« by Soap & Skin was released february 10th via Solfo.

soapandskin.com

 

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