Hear This

Azalia Snail has been performing her brand of surreal folk-pop and damaged instrumental muckery in relative obscurity for over 10 years. (In its infinite wisdom, LA Weekly awarded her the Best New Genre/Uncategorizable Artist prize last year.) After listening to her hallucinatory epics, it's easy to see why she's remained unknown. Her albums often appear to malfunction: The tape seems to speed up or slow down, as echoes create a sound-warping Doppler effect. The songs lack conventional structures, meandering into banks of spacey synths and sweet-and-sour violin. Meanwhile, Snail's lilting siren vocals rise above the disorienting barrage.

Over the years this beguiling approach has bent the ear of such indie stars as seminal lo-fi band Sebadoh, which split a 7-inch with Snail in 1993, and San Diego improv act Truman's Water, which collaborated with her on a 1995 full-length, Stampone, under the name Volume. More recently she has instigated a noisy recording session — dubbed Staff Party — with members of such neo-psych outfits as Apples in Stereo, Caroliner Rainbow, and Tower Recordings. She also has eight records of her own that feature her distinctive songwriting and psychedelic artwork, all on small labels. Later this month, New York label Dark Beloved Cloud will release her ninth effort, Brazen Arrows, which finds Snail at her most dreamy and effervescent.

For live shows Snail creates a rich, unusual sound, without the benefit of studio multitracking. In the past she has wielded only a few guitar pedals and some reverb, filling in her ethereal compositions with the help of a trumpeter or cellist. This time around she'll play an Omnichord (a kind of cheap synth/autoharp) as well as electric guitar, and be joined by bassist Dwayne Lyon, who'll provide cellolike sounds underneath the gorgeous din.

View Comments