Azalia Snail

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Snailbait , 8/10
Burnt Sienna , 7.5/10
How To Live With A Tiger , 6/10
Fumarole Rising , 7.5/10
Volume: Stampone (1995), 5/10
Escape Maker (1995), 4/10
Blue Danube (1995), 4/10
Deep Motif (1996) , 5/10
Breaker Mortar (1997) , 4.5/10
Brazen Arrows (2001) , 5/10
Soft Bloom (1999), 4/10
Avec Amour (2005), 5/10
Celestial Respect (2011), 4/10
Neon Resistance (2018), 4.5/10

New York's multi-instrumentalist Azalia Snail devoted her career to enigmatic and arcane reconstructions of the hippie era. Snailbait (1990) wed Gong's cosmic psychedelia and Brian Eno's noise-pop, and Burnt Sienna (1992) indulged in psychedelic effects, amid distorted vocals and dissonant music, leading to the chaotic Fumarole Rising (1994), the culmination of her program of disintegration of the pop song.
Azalia Snail debuted with an affectionate tribute to the psychedelic age, Snailbait (Albertine, 1990), in which she manipulated electronically her vocals and overdubbed guitar, kalimba and zither. The instrumental overture, Azalia Bloom #16, blends frantic folk-guitar strumming and oneiric keyboard glissandos, somewhere in between Led Zeppelin's mustic hard-folk and Gong's cosmic cabaret. A similar guitar instrumental, Hiss And Crackle, ends in pure cacophony. Not much more than an instrumental is Driftless, where the voice becomes pure (dilated) abstraction and blends with the wavering guitar and assorted noises. Sun In Your Face basically rewinds the album back to the pointless strumming of Azalia Bloom #16, pure hypnosis for deranged minds.
Another Slave Labour Day, instead, begins the parade of hallucinated chanting and guitar effects, her vocals ranging from angry young girl (Nothing And Everywhere) to extra-terrestrial psychedelic elf (Flight #520) to agonizing mermaid of the slums (Your Loss For My Gain) to spaced-out garage rocker (Baby Brother) to lunatic teenager in wonderland (Anywhere Is Here) to dreamy and pastoral fairy-queen (Far And Away). A 23-minute collage of singing, distorted tapes, found noises and assorted turbulence, So Much More To Go, crowns this humble albeit in its own way spectacular musical trip.
Just the guitar playing (hypnotic, chaotic, angular, jagged) with no support with a rhythm section ranks among the most original ideas of the era.

The Teenage Bedroom Tapes 1987-1991 (Union Pole, 1992) collects music from the formative years.

La polistrumentista Azalia Snail si mise in luce nei circoli d'avanguardia di New York. Appassionata dell'epoca psichedelica, registro` tutta da sola un affettuoso tributo a quelle sonorita`: Snailbait (Albertine, 1990). Snail manipola elettronicamente il proprio canto e sovra-incide chitarra, kalimba e cetra. Il sound e` quello folle dei Gong piu` che quello spaziale dei Jefferson Airplane. Nelle sue ricostruzioni del sound psichedelico Azalia Snail finisce sempre per immettere un elemento molto personale, enigmatico e arcano.

Burnt Sienna (Funky Mushroom, 1992), a humble work scored mainly for voice and guitar (but heavenly enhanced with electronics), floats in a cosmic orbit consecrated to multicolor trance. This time around the reference point is Grateful Dead at their most experimental, namely the sound effects and the instrumental detours of their early albums. St. Nowhere and The Suspect frame the basic idea. The former is a childish lullaby that turns hypnotic thanks to the acoustinc strumming, the banging of found percussions and the loud guitar distortions. Equally naive and tuneful, the latter has the happy-go-lucky flavor of a hare-krishna psalm.
Snail glides over the landscape with spaced-out and dissonant odes like The Amulet and They Are Like The Sea. The voice is often distorted, pushed deeper and deeper into the mind. The acoustic guitar toys with a folksinger-style singalong while (what is left of) the voice mumbles the rap of Keep Me Warmer. The voice is completely pulverized in Worldwind Series, a vortex of sampled vocals with the guitar simply beating the tempo.
The closest things to a rock song are Hard To Say, whose riff is vaguely reminiscent of garage-rock (although the vocals are mauled beyond recognition), and Armoured Guard, that boasts a burning electric guitar on top of the usual Dylan-ian strumming.
The difference between song and instrumental track is kind of fictitious, since vocals are used as mere sounds, but the "truly" instrumental tracks stage a show of their own: Hit By A Car is an atmospheric piece with a blues harmonica and distant whistling drowned in free-form tinkling; Sienna Burning is a wildly amorphous and dissonant raga; and Chinese Horse Torture is just white noise.
Snail shuns both the pompous attitude of Pink Floyd and the melodramatic pace of Velvet Underground and the relentless dementia of Red Krayola. Her psychedelia is tender and joyful, crazed but not devastating. While it sounds different from Madcap Laugh, Snail has more in common with Syd Barrett than a passion for illicit substances.

Burnt Sienna (Funky Mushroom, 1992) fluttua invece in un'orbita cosmica all'insegna di una trance multicolore. Questa volta il riferimento sono i Pink Floyd piu` sperimentali: se i primi Pink Floyd avessero mai registrato un disco omettendo la parte principale delle loro canzoni e lasciando soltanto gli effetti collaterali, quel disco sarebbe stato simile a questo. Ne vengono fuori ballate stralunate come St Nowhere e Armoured Guard, roghi di voci ed elettronica come The Amulet e Chinese Horse Torture, piece strumentali d'insondabile indolenza come Sienna Burning e Hit By A Car. Mescolando lo strimpellio della chitarra acustica ai campionamenti piu` bizzarri Snail scolpisce le miniature armoniche di Keep Me Warmer e Worldwind Series, che sono forse il miglior testamento del suo testardo tributo alla psichedelia.

Hail/Snail is Azalia Snail with Suzane Lewis of Hail. They put out a few singles before their only album. How To Live With A Tiger (Funky Mushroom, 1993), composed and performed together with Hail's Susanne Lewis, yielded even more ethereal songs that redefined folk music in a colorful rhythm-less soundscape. After the absolutely chaotic duet of Tigerture, the girls send a postcard from paradise titled Savannah, a serene melody accompanied by trumpet and electronics. A dissonant violin pretends to punctuate the somewhat tragic tune of Firewheel, a garage organ dances around the nursery rhyme of Little People In The Forest, and Whirly-Bird throws in all the instruments to create a symphonic disaster, surprisingly reminiscent of Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom. Their folk music is sabotaged by fits of sloppy garage-rock (Shazam), by high-brow Brecht-ian tones (Dust Gather On Me), and solemnly mystical overtones (Shoe/ Shoe Missing), and pretty much never does what one expects. The instrumental Frosted Flakes is a rare example of the marriage of anarchy and transcendence, of the Velvet Underground and the Red Crayola and who knows what else.

Fumarole Rising (Funky Mushroom, 1994) is possibly her most chaotic and "total" collage. By indulging in psychedelic effects, she redesigns the periphery of the genre. Into Yr World (with a baroque trumpet soaring over a nursery rhyme, velvet Underground-ian guitar, and steady, noisy drums), and Cast Away (anchored to a childish and exotic element that recalls Kevin Ayers) still resemble songs, but the "song" is hard to discern in compositions that defy rationality: Please Don't Come (a vocal puzzle buried under abrasive distortion), You Belong To You (an exorcism drenched in a multitude of percussions and accompanied by a saxophone), Misfortunately (a confused whisper against another wall of percussions), Sour Cherry (an harmonica-led blues shuffle that floats weightless over the rhythm of an Indian raga), The Deep Fell Need (a dense, droning, vortex of instruments), Solace Nemesis, (a spacey, psalm-like invocation with a gypsy-like coda),
The delirious, frantic, cacophonous bacchanal of Having An Experience, the instrumental madness Hidden Addendum and Cuckoo Clock, and the nocturnal abandon of Fumarole even display divine inspiration.
Snail outdoes the classics, and becomes a classic herself.

Stampone (Choke, 1995) was a collaboration with Daniel Oxenberg (Supreme Dicks) and Trumans Water.

With rare exceptions, she is playing alone on Escape Maker (1995) and Blue Danube (1995), just her out-of-tune voice and her distorted guitar (the two title-tracks are the two songs to salvage from the mess). Deep Motif (1996) contains the chaotic ten-minute litany and free-jazz jam Highway Devices, the brief (alas) space-rock instrumental Stoked Like A Furnace and several half-hearted attempts at regular psych-pop songs (Headstart, Circumspection). Breaker Mortar (1997) is a spartan effort for guitar and voice (and sound effects), notably the frenzied eight-minute guitar solo Taking Over and the brief surrealistic vignette Storm Corff, bordering on musique concrete. Soft Bloom (1999) is a fragmented collection of songs in a wild variety of styles, from garage-rock to acoustic guitar instrumentals and free-jazz jams.

Relocating to Los Angeles, Snail released the quiet and serene Brazen Arrows (Dark Beloved Cloud, 2001) on which she played an omnichord (an electronic keyboard) instead of the guitar. It opens with the seven-minute angelic hymn Let Me Enslave You and floats away on sounds that are increasingly ethereal.

Compared with her psychedelic heydays, Avec Amour (Snailbait, 2005) features much more structured and cohesive songs, whether Honeysuckle (symphonic keyboards, syncopated rhythm and hard-rocking bass guitar) or Scenescape (hummable melody, echoing keyboard, electronic beat) or I Praise You (a cross between a gospel hymn and a hare-krishna hymn) or the Bjork-ian ode Sylvan Echoes (originally recorded in 2003). They are balanced by the centerpiece, the seven-minute bluesy emotional black-hole of Disintegration. The mellow instrumentals Casuarina Trees and Late for the Life show how far Azalia Snail has traveled, mentally and musically, over a decade and a half.

Petal Metal (2008) is a double-disc retrospective.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gianfranco Federico)

Hail/Snail è Azalia Snail con Suzane Lewis degli Hail. Insieme pubblicano qualche singolo, prima del loro unico album. How To Live With A Tiger (Funky Mushroom, 1993) raccoglie canzoni persino più eteree, che ridefiniscono la musica folk in un colorato paesaggio privo di ritmo. Dopo il duetto assolutamente caotico di Tigerture, le ragazze mandano una cartolina dal paradiso intitolata Savannah, una melodia serena accompagnata da tromba ed effetti elettronici. Un violino dissonante finge di punteggiare l’alquanto tragica melodia di Firewheel, un organo garage danza intorno alla filastrocca di Little People In The Forest, e Whirly-Bird mette in campo tutti gli strumenti per creare un disastro sinfonico, sorprendentemente memore del Rock Bottom di Robert Wyatt. La loro musica folk è sabotata da slanci di sciatto garage-rock (Shazam), da declamati Brechtiani (Dust Gather On Me) e da solenni sovratoni mistici (Shoe/ Shoe Missing), e praticamente non succede mai ciò che ci si aspetta. Lo strumentale Frosted Flakes è un raro esempio di connubio tra anarchia e trascendenza, tra Velvet Underground e Red Crayola e chissà cos’altro.

Fumarole Rising (Funky Mushroom , 1994) è forse il suo collage più "totale" e caotico. Indulgendo in effetti psichedelici, Snail ridefinisce i confini del genere. Into Yr world (con una tromba barocca che svetta su una filastrocca infantile, chitarra a là Velvet Underground e continue, rumorose percussioni) e Cast Away (ancorata ad un elemento infantile ed esotico che ricorda Kevin Ayers) ancora assomigliano a canzoni, ma è difficile discernere la "canzone" in composizioni che sfidano la razionalità: Please Don't Come (un puzzle vocale sepolto sotto una distorsione abrasiva), You Belong To You (un esorcismo inzuppato in una moltitudine di percussioni e accompagnato da un sassofono), Misfortunately (un bisbiglio confuso contro un altro muro di percussioni), Sour Cherry (uno shuffle guidato da un’armonica blues che galleggia senza peso sopra il ritmo di un raga indiano), The Deep Fell Need  (un denso, ronzante vortice di strumenti), Solace Nemesis, (un’invocazione da salmo con una coda simil-zingaresca), il delirante, frenetico  baccanale cacofonico di Having An Experience, la follia strumentale di Hidden Addendum e Cuckoo Clock e l’abbandono notturno di Fumarole mostrano persino un'ispirazione divina. Snail supera i classici e diventa un classico lei stessa .

Stampone (Choke, 1995) è una collaborazione con Daniel Oxenberg (Supreme Dicks) e i Trumans Water.

Ristabilitasi a Los Angeles, Snail pubblica il calmo e sereno Brazen Arrows (Dark Beloved Cloud, 2001).

Sylvan Echoes viene registrato nel 2003.
Paragonato ai suoi apici psichedelici, in Avec Amour (Snailbait, 2005) compaiono canzoni molto più strutturate e coesive, come Honeysuckle (tastiere sinfoniche, ritmi sincopati e basso hard-rock) o Scenescape (melodia orecchiabile, tastiere rieccheggianti, battito elettronico) o I Praise You (un incrocio tra un inno gospel e un inno hare krsna) o l'ode Bjork-iana Sylvan Echoes. Queste tracce sono bilanciate dal brano centrale del disco, il buco nero emozionale di sette minuti Disintegration. Lo strumentale vellutato Casuarina Trees e Late for the Life mostrano quanto lontana è giunta Azalia Snail, mentalmente e musicalmente, in oltre un decennio e mezzo.

Petal Metal (2008) è un disco doppio retrospettivo.

Celestial Respect (2011) is a rather confused collection of synth-pop, jazzy ballads, country ballads and bubblegum-pop ditties (notably Silk Breeze).

LoveyDove, a duo formed with guitarist and keyboardist Dan West, released LoveyDove (2014), ShowStopper (2015) and Snail Meets West (2015).

Neon Resistance (2018) is unusually upbeat and energetic. Hard to recognize her while she's shouting on the swinging dance of Weekend Back (nonetheless one of her most original songs). Unfortunately most of the album is filler.

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