The early 1990s belong to the silver age of the American do-it-yourself music scene. By the time the new decade dawned, the ability to record, print, and distribute a record or CD was well within the reach of practically anyone in the States, and the amount of product in stores reflected that newfound ease. The variety of music was equally impressive. Bands no longer worried about conforming to a particular sound to get label attention, so a great "indie rock" revolution happened.
One facet of that revolution encouraged artists to experiment with psychedelic and progressive-rock styles without fear of being labeled hippies or worse. Out of this extraordinary milieu came Azalia Snail, a trippy avant-garde songwriter/musician from New York City. (She now lives in Los Angeles.) Arising from the same acid-laced rivers that spawned Caroliner Rainbow, Sun City Girls, Bongwater, and other late-Eighties/early-Nineties indie-psychedelia, Snail successfully panned those waters for her own unique tabs of gold.
She not only writes her own music but also performs much of the instrumentation, creating a surreal landscape in both word and sound. At times, the swirling, layered music is akin to that of Yo La Tengo, and her moodier moments suggest an affinity to Galaxie 500. But Snail also remains loyal to her avant-garde roots without devolving toward anti-music, as many indie colleagues have done. Her albums feature guitars, organs, and drums but also zithers, flutes, and percussive instruments. And she has collaborated on recordings or jammed onstage with many of her fellow travelers, including Hail, Sebadoh, Truman's Water, Supreme Dicks, and Beck.
This year Snail released her eleventh album, Avec Amour, which features her trademark siren vocals and lush instrumentation. The songs here lean heavily toward the ambient, prog-rock side of her musical personality, but she still whips up her whimsy when the mood strikes. The best part is that despite the rich sonic detailing, Snail does a remarkable job of translating a studio's fill of music into her solo live act. She'll likely be performing solo, just voice and Omnichord, at Churchill's, but you never know who might drop in. Margaret Griffis
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