Behling & Simpson is not an easy outfit to pin down. When the duo first emerged in 2010, it seemed to be following the path being charted by fellow Bristolians Julio Bashmore and the rest of Futureboogie crew, as its initial offerings dabbled in R&B- and funk-tinged house. Subsequent records have varied somewhat, either digging deeper or sprinkling in bits of soulful UK garage, but the pair's latest EP, The Vaults, appears to have thrown out the script altogether. Nevertheless, it also appears to be some of Behling & Simpson's most interesting work yet.
The EP opens with "The Vaults," a nine-minute excursion that casually moves through multiple movements. Beginning as a sort of slow-motion house cut, the track's loose grooves gradually thicken up as the song proceeds, thanks to the addition of clacking percussion, a weighty kick, and a chunky acid bassline. Halfway through, the track blossoms into something else entirely, as a potent string melody charges to the forefront and is quickly flanked by soaring synths and strident keys. By the seven-minute mark, there's a litany of elements at play, yet Behling & Simpson keep things under control, directing traffic with ease. It's an impressive effort.
"Slates" is up next, and finds the duo infusing ramshackle, Afrobeat-flavored percussion with twisting acid lines. Somehow, the unusual marriage works, and the effect is oddly hypnotic. Unlike the title track, which has more of a distinct build, "Slates" woozily cruises along for eight minutes, occasionally adding or subtracting elements from the mix, but never losing its groove. The EP's closing number, "Vitamin A," also plays with an acid-house template, but does so at a higher tempo while employing the record's most dancefloor-oriented beat. The song carries itself with a disco-era swagger, cribbing notes from Daft Punk along the way. That being said, it might be the least memorable track on the EP, simply because it's also the most conventional. The Vaults shows that Behling & Simpson are at their best when they're indulging their creative whimsy, and if they can continue to generate this sort of quality material moving forward, we see no reason for them to stop experimenting.