Yet that wasn't the direction he would take. Simpson used the label, along with 50 Weapons, as a platform on which he could follow his muse to somewhere in between. Slower than drum & bass and more spacious than footwork, his new sound is itchy-fingered, energetic and richly textured. The records he's released as Sam Binga (including collaborations with Addison Groove and Om Unit) are his best. This carries over to Wasted Days, a vocal-heavy LP that positions him as a shapeshifter rather than a chameleon.
Wasted Days is full of three-minute songs that pack in more ideas than most drum & bass songs do in twice the time. But to Simpson's credit, it never feels like whiplash—the way the title track slips and slides from antsy verses to a cascading drop is unusually smooth. Other tracks are drizzled with lush synthesizers that act like protective insulation from all the jabbing drums. He turns grime's strident thrust into something panicky on "Run The Dance," channels EPROM at his wobbliest on "Badman Skin" and dresses up drum & bass with trap influences on the swaggering "Mind & Spirit." The vocalists match this restless focus: Redder's gruff dexterity is a great foil for Simpson's high-octane drumming, while Chimpo, Fox, Warrior Queen and Rider Shafique deliver as well. Their verses bark and froth with the same controlled energy feeding the riddims.
As much as Wasted Days is based around vocal performances, the handful of instrumentals are even more arresting. Simpson's collaboration with Critical affiliate Hyroglifics, "Dark Day," is the album's centerpiece. Slowed to 127 BPM and loaded with mournful synths and coiled drum breaks, its sighing pads hint towards Autonomic and provide some respite from the record's high-octane madness. Om Unit jumps on "Reclaim," a crunchy 160 BPM banger, and Simpson goes solo for "I Tol U." As you'd expect, it's pretty much all drums, a nod to the earliest Baobinga days presented in an updated framework.
Though his production style is distinct, Simpson isn't entirely alone in this liminal space. Wasted Days taps into a continuum of producers who are working elements of footwork, drum & bass and jungle into a dynamic and unpredictable sound, sometimes referred to as "slow/fast." What sets Simpson apart is his all-encompassing approach—this record pairs rumbling cuts like "Necessary" and "Steppin VIP" with drum & bass slow jams (like "Stormy Weather," where the Reese basslines turn tender) and gossamer dub ("Greatest Distance"). This is his most personal record, despite the raft of collaborators he brings to the table. For an artist who has long relied on others to help him flesh out his ideas, what's most impressive about Wasted Days is just how complete it feels.
Tue / 20 Oct 2015
01. Believe feat. Redders, Rider Shafique
02. Wasted Days feat. Warrior Queen
03. Pound 4 Pound feat. Redders, Rider Shafique
04. Bad Bish feat. TT The Artist
05. Run The Dance feat. Slick Don
06. Dark Day feat. Hyroglifics
07. Stormy Weather feat. Rudey Lee
08. Mind & Spirit feat. Rider Shafique
09. Badman Skin feat. Redders
10. Necessary feat. Fox, Rider Shafique, Chimpo
11. I Tol U
12. Reclaim feat. Om Unit
13. Greatest Distance feat. Romaine
14. Steppin VIP feat. Chimpo, Fox, Redders, Deft
Digital Only: One6Nine
Digital Only: Boongooz
Digital Only: Dub & Spirit