Premiere: Parks Burton’s Otherworldly Songs “Powder Down” & “The Valley”

Parks Burton © 2018
Parks Burton creates small emotional universes in the two lead singles “Powder Down” and “The Valley” from his upcoming full-length, Pare.

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There is no shortage of electronic music in the world in this day and age. New and talented producers continue to make names for themselves in each music scene, and the supply of vocalists to feature never seems to run out. However, LA-based producer and vocalist Parks Burton brings something a little different to the table. His unique approach to his own music is clear from the very beginning of the first of his new singles, “Powder Down,” and continues all the way until the end of “The Valley.” The production is dense and detailed, but the sounds are precise and unexpected. His voice remains the forefront of the music, clear in some moments and distorted in others.

Parks Burton – “Powder Down” & “The Valley”

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Powder Down” and “The Valley”, the two lead singles off Park Burton’s forthcoming first full-length album Pare (4/13/2018 via Grind Select). According to Burton, ”Pare is an attempt at live-cell microscopy on small emotional themes.” Coupling esoteric lyrics with extreme sonic specificity, Burton achieves just this. Each song is a widely expanded moment, exploring the minute details of each theme. “Powder Down,” Burton says, is about the feeling of “being in over your head and going along for the ride.”

Powder Down - Parks Burton

Powder Down – Parks Burton

The song begins with a xylophone-like synth, playing out a tense melody. Another synth enters with a counter-melody. The beat drops, and Burton’s vocals come in, setting a somewhat haphazard scene in a staccato rhythm:

Kismet
Buckle up
You could get away with anything you want
Tell me what you have in mind

The lyrics become increasingly intense, as Burton sings of “cataclysmic” things and “fate.” The production intensifies to match, as an urgency begins to color the song. A somewhat medieval melody begins to play, accompanied by what could only be described as spaceship noises. Keeping in theme with the subject matter, the production almost seems to envelop Burton, as he becomes more deeply embedded in the mix. The hook brings him to some sort of place of acceptance:

Powder down
Where the potion is close to my heart
Powder down baby
Comes down to you
Feather weight
Better late than never close to my heart

The lyrics end here, and the instrumental carries the rest of the song. You can almost imagine Burton having run away with someone as the synths become denser – a forest of sound, fading into nothing.

The Valley - Parks Burton

The Valley – Parks Burton

Burton’s second single, “The Valley,” is an even more lush and detailed soundscape. It begins with a whining synth, a single note vibratoing. All of a sudden, massive, glimmering chords begin, sounding as though the listener is being dropped into an 80s fantasy video game. Burton says that this song is about chasing a feeling, “animated by a long-dead relative.” For inspiration, he imagined his grandfather, who he never met. The song is filled with ephemera, which gives it an incredibly dreamlike quality. When Burton’s voice enters, the sparkling chords fall silent and a driving bass line enters.

Full contact through the wind
Tearing through the park, through the stadium
I chased him through the valley
Always a step behind

The speaker goes on to describe “every motion feeling like a ritual.” There is an amazing physicality to Burton’s songs, in the way that the imagery comes to the listener with ease. The intentionality of the production makes you feel as though you are with Burton in the moment. His refrain of the phrase “I feel it wherever I go” helps the listener to, as well. Though this song has slightly more of a pop sensibility than the first, it is no less interesting and unique. His last words in the song are:

Parks Burton © 2018

Parks Burton © 2015

Let it start that chain reaction
Let it spin me out of line
Spin me away

Like “Powder Down,” the lyrics end, but the instrumental plays on. In “The Valley,” an odd breakdown full of string samples, dreamy patches, and drums that almost sound like a jazz solo carry into the return of the original, video game-esque theme. Once again, it seems that Burton has slipped away from us, following that unknowable feeling.

Burton’s clear ear for detail, paired with relatable, yet uniquely executed themes make for a fascinating array of sounds. Pare is certain to delight any listener. Pre-order the album here.

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Powder Down - Parks Burton

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Mariel Fechik is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois. She works for the nonprofit Chicago HOPES for Kids, working with children experiencing homelessness in the city. She is the singer for the band Fay Ray, writes poetry, and also writes for Third Coast Review. She loves sea creatures and plants.