Anja Plaschg, AKA Soap&Skin,is not your typical teenager.Earlier this year the Austrian delivered her debut album Lovetune For Vacuum, a work full of beautiful piano-led melodies steeped in drama and horror andtopped with a voice evoking a dark sadness.
Tonight she was welcomed to the South Bank Centre’s intimate Purcell Room to demonstrate how she would adapt such an involving piece of work for the live stage.
Consumed in her gothicidentity, she appears dressed entirely in black matching her piano, leaving a vase of white lilies as the only element of colour on stage. Beginning with the gorgeous but creepy Turbine Womb, the mood is set for a strange evening of melancholy.
The bulkof the album moves along at much the same pace, so it works perfectly well for the setlist to essentially be Lovetune For Vacuum on shuffle. Alone on stage,she recreates itby singing and playing her piano along to a backing track which supplies her with all the requisite sound effects that give the songs a twist and a kick. Hopefully at some point in her career she’ll bring some sort of orchestra with her, as producingthe entire sound live would add another welcomedimension to the show.
As it isthere are a few tricks up her sleeve. After 10 or so tracks, and just as her audience is feeling comfortable with this strange but enchanting lady at the piano, the Purcell Room is plunged into darkness for a few seconds before the lights come back onbathing the audience in a blood red.
Plaschg is no longer at the piano but stands and walks off the stage and, with arms outstretched like a mad zombie princess, she walks through her audience, shouting her way through the industrial electro ofDDMMYY before finding her way back for a primal scream. It’s at this point she demonstrates she’s not just a girl with a curious talent. Soap&Skin isher alter ego, and this is a performance as close to a piece of art as a gig can be.
With that realisation, the remainder pushes her and her audience further. The repeated call on the winning Spiracle to “please help me” imposes shiverson the audience’s spines. Andrather than a traditional encore, she reappears to stand centre stage to end with an acappellapiece in a foreign tongue, leaving anunsettling sense of drama.
Like the album, Soap&Skin the live experience is creepy, heartbreaking and beautiful. The music is the same, but the performance is astonishing.