Signed to Critical Music, arguably the most intrepid label in all of drum and bass, Bristol-based producer Sam Binga's wonky appropriation of frenetic, jungle-inspired, soundsystem-influenced hip-hop beats are an anomaly. "I love that," laughs Binga from his studio in the UK. "I grew up in jungle and dnb, but I'm probably the furthest away from traditional drum and bass on the label. I think it says a lot about [Critical boss] Kasra's vision, that he's up for signing someone who is such a nutter."
The tracklist from Binga's new LP, Wasted Days, gives a hint of the cultural clusterfuck of the tunage on the album and the nutter who made it all. Tracks with frequent collaborator Redders and Slick Don are all grime, Warrior Queen and Rider Shafique bring island vibes, while TT the Artist drips with B-more swag and even Om Unit stops by for an instrumental cut.
"I really wanted the album to be focused, but diverse," says Binga. "It's all within 160-170bpm, but I've tried to work in the stuff that's exciting me. There's a lot that's really influenced by footwork. There's stuff that references classic jungle. Some of the aesthetics and approach of grime in there. British dance music is a mashup of cultures in general. When anything gets too one-dimensional, well, then you've got EDM. The best dance music comes from a conversation."
The conversation in which Binga wrangles these concurrent-but-separate scenes is one more easily spoken in his adoptive city of Bristol, a town he refers to as the mild mild west. "It's a great space to try this," he says. "It's got a really strong afro-Caribbean community. People like Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead, Roni Size, Pinch, Kahn, Neek are from there, grime and dubstep have always had their own particular feel in the city."
This approachable diversity in Bristol has informed Binga's work. "Bristol has always been a pretty diverse place. I remember going to see Wiley at Level, which is now shut down in Bristol. It was like a mosh pit. All he had to do was touch the mic and the place went insane. It was the closest thing I can imagine to being in a proper, rowdy punk show. Bristol is always punching above its weight musically. It's small enough that you can meet people easily and people are up for working together."
Binga cites "Greatest Distance," featuring vocalist Romaine Smith, as one of his favorite projects on the record. "It's one of the deepest cuts on an upfront LP, and the tune has an appropriately immersive video featuring vocalist Romaine himself. "We filmed Romaine in Bristol and then [director] Nikita von Teickenberg took that footage, worked it in with some shots of Hanover," says Binga. "I think it really captures the sense of movement in the track. That whole song and video is one of the things I'm most proud of making on the album."