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Drowned in Meaning

(Blackmail Electronics; US: 29 Feb 2012; UK: Import)

Drowned in Meaning is a lot like Coldcut’s late eighties single “Beats + Pieces”: intricate on a technical level, but often exhausting due to the sheer multitude of samples. Realistic, the musical project of James Towning, excels at blending in together samples one wouldn’t think could occupy the same song. The highlight of the record, “Moment of Realization”, effectively samples the vocal part of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” amidst a cloud of synths and flickers of glitchy noise. Towning is at his best in moments like these; he oscillates between the complex tracks like those and the (comparatively) simple ones, like the disco-tinged lead single “Token Gestures”. By the end of the album’s 16 tracks, it’s a wonder how Towning amassed all of the music he did; this is a diverse collage of a record. And while his skill is to be admired, the myriad samples of Drowned in Meaning in a way undercut it. Given a lack of conceptual unity to the music, the album plays like a sample extravaganza; when listening to a song later in the album, it’s easy to forget the earlier tracks due to all that’s going on. For that reason, Drowned in Meaning is both successful and a victim to its success.


Brice Ezell is Assistant Editor at PopMatters, where he also reviews music, film, and books, which he has done since 2011. He also is the creator of PopMatters' Notes on Celluloid column, which covers the world of film music. His writing also appears in Sea of Tranquility and Glide Magazine (formerly Hidden Track). His short story, "Belle de Jour", was published in 67 Press' inaugural publication The Salmagundi: An Anthology. You can follow his attempts at wit on Twitter and Tumblr if you're so inclined. He lives in Chicago.

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