ALBUM REVIEW: Soap&Skin “Narrow”

Soap&Skin (Anja Plaschg) is not the type of artist whose work would be deemed ‘radio friendly’. Fair enough Jo Whiley may have given the stirring “Wonder” the odd spin on her Sunday night show, but that barely counts. While “Wonder” may represent the sole ‘commercial’ outing of Plaschg’s long-awaited sophomore release “Narrow”, it also  offers a fair insight into what the 21 year Austrian composer has on offer on her scintillating release.

Without venturing two far from the harrowing heartbreak of her 2009 debut “Lovetune For Vacuum”, Plaschg redefines the piano-based lovelorn lustre that Adele so rightly owned in 2011. While comparisons to Adele sonically are extremely inappropriate, on a content level, the two songwriters draw heavily on their emotional turmoil and translate the journeys into tragic tales that are easy for a listener to relate to.

For those unaware of Soap&Skin’s earlier work, it would be fair to say that while Adele caters for the radio listener, Plaschg focuses her energies to the left of centre. With a vocal that may provoke Regina Spektor comparatives, Plaschg boasts a little Polly Scattergood, a little Agnes Obel, a little P.J. Harvey, a little Tori Amos and a little Bjork, without ever losing her own startling presence.

“Narrow” contains compositions of epic proportions. The devastatingly uplifting “Vater” kicks off proceedings, with Plaschg focusing on the loss of her father with both experimental flare and a serene sincerity. While the twists and turns of “Vater” highlights both the highs and lows of loss, it sets the tone perfectly for what is to come. From here Plaschg takes us on a colourful journey through the industrial “Deathmental” and the tender “Cradelsong” before concluding with the brief drama of “Big Hand Nails Down”.

With each twist and turn, Plaschg is able to further entice her listener into her mindspace. “Narrow” is a colourful, challenging listen that warrants exploration. The experimental realm of Soap&Skin may not seem as immediately appealing as her commercial counterpart Adele, but “Narrow” is every inch as enticing as the stunning “21”.

Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jeremy Williams

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