That said, such qualities aren't particularly suited to the themes of Darlington's 12th LP. Inspired by the deaths of his grandmother and close friend Austin Peralta—the Californian musician whose untimely passing also influenced Thundercat's Apocalypse LP—Drown Out is Darlington's meditation on pain, mortality and loss. "Meditation" isn't a word normally associated with someone whose music can swing from ballroom waltz to drum & bass in a single track. Yet in contrast to his earlier works, Drown Out really lets his music breathe. Previously there was the sense of a man trying to squeeze in as many ideas as possible, but here he seems prepared to relax and just let things flow.
There is a certain aquatic sensation to the submerged synths and fluid rhythms of tracks like "Flat Faded" and "Paradiddle." The rap samples and stream of electronic bubbles in "Keep Still" dare you to dub it aquacrunk, if that term hadn't been so lambasted by Darlington's cohort Flying Lotus. Even though Drown Out is largely without humour, it's far from morbid. The choral voices of "Tiptoes" give it a quasi-religious atmosphere, but one more devotional than funereal. On "At Attention," lonely Morse Code bleeps are swathed in fuzzy melodies.
Those bleeps also symbolise another of Darlington's concerns here: the difficulty of human connection. In some ways that's also apparent in the lack of traditional songs—his earlier albums included vocalists like MF Doom and Darlington's wife, Laura, but the few voices here are wordless and blended into the texture of the music. This makes the electronic sounds seem more human, especially as the voices aren't battling to be heard against the rest of the track, as has happened with Darlington's vocal compositions in the past. The idea that loss makes you focus on what's important might be a cliché, but for Darlington it seems to ring true.