“Sleep” opens with sparse piano chords and introduces you to Soap&Skin’s (Anja Plaschg) vocals, from desperate whimsy whispers to yelps of heartpain and everything tragically beautiful inbetween. Vocal layering and minimal percussive underscoring is really where the heart of this album lies.
“Cry Wolf” is like a demented marionette fairground ride as the piano and carousel music interlope and provide a haunting backdrop to Anja’s dualing vocals which are high and sweet. The percussion sounds like a till being opened and a camera’s film being rolled. I love that the track doesn’t hurry itself at all, like a wander down a stream. Single “Thanatos” follows which is a brooding gothic chanting rouse to all. The piano coda riff really sinks into your skin as Anja bursts into foreboding tones. The song is incredibly tense and I adore the music video that couples it.
“Extinguish Me” is a beautifully quiet track with underplayed strings and soft piano and vocals until the middle part of the track which almost feels like an ascension. The mood however stays like that of regret and sorrow and encaptures you from start to finish. “Turbine Woomb” opens to baby cries which in the context of where I feel the album comes, feels like a rebirth almost. The song itself is instrumental and devastatingly beautiful and has a real epicness to it, especailly when the electronics and percussion hits in during the final sections.
“Cynthia” is stunning. From the falling trickling piano to the understated murmurings from Anja, there’s something more mystical about how Anja pronounces things and is sometimes not always crystal clear. It gives her an otherworldly feel. The piano here standouts as a perfectly pitched performance. “Fall Foilage” reminds me of evil jinxes with its sinister playful piano which gathers pace and complexity before it explodes into a beaming up of electronic pulses.
“Spiracle” is about as mainstream as Lovesongs… gets. A simple piano tune set apart from Anja’s vocal ranges which soar and scream their way throughout. There’s about four different main vocals all playing at the same time and you can hear little creases and cracks in each one, its a joy to listen to the hidden depth. “Mr Gaunt Pt 1000” is overwhelmingly sad. There’s something very weary and tiresome just plugged into the production, like the life is sucked out of the vocals and the piano. It’s just a tiny difference to everything else but its beautifully done.
“Marche Funebre” signals change in sound. This track is a cutting and pasting of string arrangements over some minimal beat work and guitar signal wails. With a gentle vocal over the top, it makes for an absolutely haunting piece of music that stalks you from start to finish. “The Sun” is is creepy and crawls in from its horror movie beginning as it builds up and up into a frenzied middle section before twisting itself around into a clockwork merging of piano, electric clicks and static bursts as the album continues to add more digital elements the further it gets. The song structures are quite unusual too which adds to the general unsettling beauty of it all.
“DDMMYYYY” is almost completely made up of electric clicks, whooshes and sounds that harken back to modem connection noises. The result is something completely removed from the rest of the album itself, yet it still feels naturally part of the evolution of the album. As the song loops round Anja’s vocal shouts and general chaos are thrown in over the top to make the experimental piece almost become quite harrowing. The album ends with “Brother of Sleep” is so light and shimmering its almost like you’ve reached a resting place. The last two minutes of the track is just garden ambience and bird song.
Soap&Skin is one of the most unique albums and new artists I’ve came across for a while. She straddles so many emotions, overtones and undertones, it’s so rare to have an artist that is so darkly rooted and yet so utterly beautiful all at the same time. “Lovesongs for Vacuum” captures the essence of the beauty of a death of something. Mesmorizing.