I've known of Ms. Snail since she first appeared on the music scene and sent her work for review to my broadsheet Camera Obscura just after I told David Ciafardini and his Sound Choice rag to go fuck themselves in the 80s (Snail claims 1990 as her commencement point, but I seem to recall earlier output; on the other hand, I was certain Columbus discovered America in 1967, so maybe I'm off on such things). At first, I thought she was one of the strange sisterhood like Lisa Suckdog, who inhabited the fringe of the fringe, but once I'd heard The Space Lady (Susan Dietrich), I understood the true connection in what Irwin Chusid would later write of: outsider music. As he put it: "Genius? Forget it. Talent? Beside the point", and that's what you must contend with in Azalia Snail, Celestial Respect being the latest in a rather prolific publishing history (14 CDs total, as far as I can determine).
No, I really can't take Snail's work, far too dodgy for me, but it has strong appeal to aficionados of the realms of Daniel Johnston, Jandek, The Space Lady, Wing, and God only knows how many faltering quasi-musicians. Granted, here, the chanteuse first presents a numbed-out quartet of tracks of lo-fi synched-in dreary vocals barely cutting the grade as wannabe but then surprises with User System, a clear well-recorded track of quite decent singing, a Kate Bush / Robert Wyatt-esque love paean in drear atmospherics (with a mellotron!). That, we must howl, is nonetheless just a one-off and then we're back into the mucky swamp. Thus, if outsider music is your gig, this is what you want; if, however, you like music, then avoid Celestial Respect at all costs.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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