You know when you put a Soap&Skin record on that things are about to get unsettling it and so it is that ‘Sugarbread’, the title track of her new EP, opens up with the muffled sounds of screaming layered over some powerful rhythms. A pounding, slightly off-kilter, beat emerges to throw you off. “Try to break one’s heart in perpetuity”, Anja Plaschg intones.
The sound is confrontational. But Plaschg’s talent is to pull this off without pushing the listener away, rather pulling them in, her music angry yet almost welcoming, like finding warm comfort in a world of concrete. Plaschg tackles troubling themes, but something beautiful is rendered from something tragic. It is these ongoing contradictions that make up the majesty of her music.
The Sugarbread EP is intended to wrap up the Narrow mini-album, but while none of the songs here appeared on that record they were all a key part of the accompanying tour. Anyone who caught those shows will be delighted to see her cover of Robert Johnson’s “Me And The Devil” included here. Plaschg has made the song her own. On the surface, the only recognisable elements of the original are the lyrics, but amid her colliding rhythms the spirit of the original is delivered with added force.
The short and gentle Pray eases you out of this brief record, almost serving as an antidote to the power of what has gone before, a chance to catch your breath before emerging from a deeply affecting few minutes.