By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
When the local bedroom producer who calls himself the Angel of Death dropped me off his demo, he made sure to point out the birth-control instructions he'd festooned the homemade CD with, which made me laugh, but not as much as the songs: choppy beats with sampled music and vocal samples torn from George W. Bush speeches, The Big Lebowski, and The Family Guy TV series.
Around the same time, a friend hit me off with a copy of local kid Brandon Adamson's album, called Springtime in Paris, 10 sap-oozing pop songs sung over Wesley Willis-esque, Casio-sounding keyboard riffs. This album had me laughing, too, with its saccharine love songs and awkward melodies.
And I had an epiphany . . . I had to try to get these two together to make beautiful, hilarious noise.
The two have little in common except for being skinny white kids in their mid-20s, and the fact that neither plays out live. It's not often I'm moved to push developing artists together -- I'm no Svengali -- but these two represent such unique and completely opposite philosophies and practices of the art of making music that I felt I had to try to get them to hook up, if for nothing else than to spice up the bouillabaisse of musical styles the 'Nix has to offer.
My initial idea was that since the Angel of Death is a producer (he uses the program Reason on a Macintosh laptop), and Brandon Adamson is more of a vocalist (he definitely needs some tuning up in the production department), I would hook the two up and, like magnets with opposite polarity, they'd click together.
The Angel of Death has already sent some of his beats to underground hip-hop auteur Awol One, but he agrees with me that Awol probably won't find much use for them. He pastes together breakbeats with simplistic keyboard riffs over the top, but his main gimmick is the samples he steals. It's almost too easy to collect stupid shit that George W. Bush has said and lay it over a track, but the Death Angel digs a little deeper when he pulls out snippets of comedian Mitch Hedberg having a conversation with himself ("I like my sandwiches with three pieces of bread." "So do I." "Well, let's form a club, then.")
While the Angel of Death's demo CD is completely and intentionally hilarious, Adamson's album lacks any sense of humor, which is a shame, because it's often giggle-inducing with its video-game-styled music. His keyboard melodies are stunning for their purely simplistic but danceable goofiness. It's pajama-party music, but Adamson seems far too serious about it, not recognizing where his niche likely lies. An injection of the Angel of Death's humor would take his music to another level, where Adamson's naiveté is countered by the Death Angel's irony.
Adamson says it took eight years to eventually release Springtime in Paris. "Basically, I had a guitar and I never learned to play it, so I traded it for a keyboard," he says. "My philosophy has always been to use whatever kind of equipment I had access to; even if I just had a ukulele and nothing else, I'd try to write songs with that. I can only afford to get the cheapest keyboard, and this does everything, so I'll just use it."
It's hard to believe that Adamson is really taking himself that seriously when he steals the melody from the playground classic "There's a Place in France Where the Naked Ladies Dance" for the album's third track, "Moving Day." Put some of the Angel of Death's breakbeats behind that, and you've got an ass-shakin' novelty hit. Adamson's songs are all about girls, and some, like "Lost Andjealous" (get it?), are more clever than the silly melodies initially allow you to perceive.
Adamson tells me, "I don't have any interest in live shows or anything like that. I just want to release albums and focus more on things like getting my stuff licensed. If you're someone who's any sort of solo musician, you should try to preserve some sort of mystery or something. Once you get up and play in front of three guys in a shitty dive bar, it's all lost."
That's where I think Adamson is wrong -- if he'd partner up with the right producer, play to the right crowd, find the humor in his songs, and work on his vocal cadence in front of an audience, he'd improve immensely. The Angel of Death's beat manipulation and sampling prowess could push Adamson's songcraft to a new demographic, where both artists would be trampling new creative ground, sending up divots of avant-pop tomfoolery.
But alas, I couldn't make an in-person meeting happen, which I guess is just as well, since neither seemed to give a shit about the other's music when I played it for them. Actually, I realized with a sinking feeling in my gut, they pretty much disgusted one another with their music.
"Horrible . . . I thought it was going to be sarcastic at least," the Angel of Death says of Adamson's disc as we cruise through the tracks. Adamson expresses similar antipathy for the Angel of Death's record ("The George W. Bush samples were interesting, but I'm a registered Republican").
So for now, these two will only team up in my head. But I remain, as always, a dreamer. If you change your minds, guys, just give a shout and we'll make this happen.