Sound Colour Vibration Review: Deantoni Parks’ Touch But Don’t Look
When Brooklyn based drummer Deantoni Parks first started to work with the guys in The Mars Volta circles, it felt like a perfect fit. Having first contact with his polyrhthmic and highly stylized techniques in a euphoric mind altered state at Vegoose festival playing behind the kit for Volta, I couldn’t believe how he was controlling his drums under a plethora of subtle effects and the overall sea of music around him. This was the introduction phase for me to diving into his band KUDU along with the traces of releases he would contribute to for The Mars Volta’s main composer Omar Rordriguez Lopez. Deantoni Parks plays with a level of precision and tenacity that walks a fine line between organic and constantly moving jazz drumming and highly intricate and synthetic Squarepusher esk electronic beats. It has been 6 years since I was dismantled mentally by his drumming live and now Deantoni Parks is embarking on the release of Touch But Don’t Look, his first solo record to date and the first of what we hope to be many albums by Parks on Rodriguez Lopez Productions and Sargent House.
In the same direction as his musical colleague Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Deantoni Parks unveils all those bits and pieces of sound that come entirely from the mind and spirit of himself on his latest offering. Contributing all sounds on Touch But Don’t Look, Parks is listed as contributing live drums, drum programming, sequencing and synths. Starting with the piece “Eleven Eleven”, the grime and muscular energy of the album catipults right into the mix. Subtle manipulation is spread over all the tones coming into the field of sounds while the drum work intricately provides the backbone and movement of the piece. The hi-hat is rapidly divided into 16th notes as a chamber of sounds washes into every direction. With a fat and juxtaposed synth present, the fusion of this piece has already given the record something new to claim its own in this community we call music. Just as dark, juxtapose and raw as the first piece is, “Amsterdam by Foot”, the second song off Touch But Don’t Look, snaps into the late 80′s with an electro groove that is more melodically stable and smoother around the edges. Layers are added in succession, not a plethora of directions in uneven patterns and the power of the drums is more pronounced and focused. The electronic pathways into instrumental-ism are endless and Deantoni Parks stops at nothing to move your feet and remodel how instrumentation can be injected with a song like “Amsterdam by Foot”. The synth and drumming shares a relationship that is phenomenal and when the break down occurs, Deantoni really let’s out some beautiful rapid fire hits on his kit that resonate in my mind long after hearing it.
There is a hard hitting vibe in a lot of the synth and drum combinations that is a dominant feature to many of the pieces in Touch But Don’t Look. “Make My Day” feels omni in tone with a considerable amount of weight and gust behind the kit and the synth that makes me move on contact. It sounds menacing, slightly over driven in the best ways and appears out of a dark alley like something that could be played to a gang brawl. The piece catches a breath when a glowing and beautiful synth pulls itself out of the shadows along with the dynamics of the drums taking shift. It’s one of those pieces where I can see people going ape shit hearing this as it was being mixed. “Rebel to Rebel” is another track where devastation occurs through drums and a dark, mystic world becomes explored. Each of the 10 songs on the album takes you to a slightly different world and “Rebel to Rebel” is one of the most hard hitting yet beautiful of the collection.
An interesting side of experimental worlds exists all over Touch But Don’t Look, regardless of how electro and rhythmic the ride feels from front to back. “Let’s Go Hazy” has a weird duality of 80′s electronic melodies and a wavering psychedelia feel. The small drum fills under the 8-bit sounding synth is perfect and highlights a drummer who can stay as far into the pocket as he can dive completely out of it. “Guiding Light” is another piece that falls into this same territory and expansion of electro pop compositions through experimental mediums. The drumming is impeccable, exploratory and technically out of this world and even has a section in the song for mallet’s. It’s this drawing towards other worlds that allows so many of the songs to rest in states of different meanings while trickily never loosing its electro feel. Parks choose his only collaboration of the album on the ending pop laced number “Dancin’ Like a Feather” with vocalist Betty Black. Sleek and melodically shark as a tac, this track is drenched in the sultry and ghost traces of Betty Black’s presence and an over achieving dynamic of acoustic and electronics.
I have been a huge fan of Deantoni Parks and his compositional abilities are on full view with Touch But Don’t Look. The world needs more drummers releasing solo records and Touch But Don’t Look is one of the best in years. Deantoni Parks’ Touch But Don’t Look is a perfect addition to the long standing legacy of drummers who take it upon themselves to define their technique and creative visions on their own terms. -by Erik Otis