December 14th, 2015 | Album reviews

Deantoni Parks
Leaving Records

Deantoni Parks is known primarily as the most recent drummer for the Mars Volta, as well as founder and drummer of the hyper-rhythmic genre-antagonizing New York band Kudu. So it makes sense that Technoself, Parks’ debut under his own name, shows off a percussionist’s approach to composition. His biggest strengths are his attention to the timbre of the instruments and voices he samples and how he pairs them with his aggressive rhythms, which he plays himself on the drums. Combined with a generally minimalist approach, the result is an album that—while consisting largely of samples and electronic sounds—never feels synthetic. Instead, it’s a collage both colorful and tactile, like a hard-lined landscape made out of construction paper.

The melodies Parks assembles are strong enough, but he’s at his best when he backs off and lets the textures become the centerpiece: “Down,” for instance, which samples an acoustic guitar cocooned in reverb, accompanied by a clipped, mournful male vocal. His ear for tonal depth manifests on the unexpectedly polished “Pebble,” too, with a surprise sample of a Phish guitar melody.

The few pieces that revolve around vocal samples involve Parks in meditative sparring matches. On “Our Shadows,” a terse clip of a female vocal taunting “wha? wha? wha?” is paired with sharp snaps of the snare drum; they’re answered by the “hmmm”s of a man who seems like he’s just about to say something. “Bombay” is the high point of what Parks does best on this record, with his drums and a chopped-up vocal snippet going hand-to-hand, brutally and arrhythmically. With the sounds of a small crowd dubbed in, it’s got the feel of a street corner scuffle. (Of course, it’s Parks on both sides of these battles.) These moments are rarer than the grainier, earthen moments that dominate the rest of the album, but they reinforce its themes of self and work. Ultimately, Technoself is a kind of sonic Rocky montage—a picture of Parks as an artist whipping himself into shape.

—Chris Kissel