While Slime has a good thing going with his futuristic, low-impact R&B sound, he's not quite so adept with the more abstract tracks on Company.
Slime’s debut album is a set of electronic music that sounds organic, futuristic R&B that doesn’t always resemble R&B or futurism. These contrasts make Company an interesting listen, but Slime’s apparent lack of interest in melodies also make Company a challenging listen. Slime’s sole member, Will Archer, seems much more concerned with creating a general vibe or feeling for each track than basing it around a strong melody.
Which isn’t to say the album is completely devoid of melody, only that some tracks are more abstract than others. “Hot Dog”, for instance, features a low-impact synth and minimalist percussion groove and cooing vocals from George Maple. About halfway through the song, Maple starts singing actual lyrics and the song finds a center. The track makes another small shift in its final third, bringing in bass and guitar to deepen the groove. “Hot Dog” may be Company’s most successful song, or at least its most accessible.
Company’s other tracks featuring vocalists mine similar R&B grooves, although these grooves are often offset by chilly synths that more closely resemble something off of Björk’s icy album Vespertine. “Symptoms” opens with spare, high register guitar plucking and female vocals breathily singing, “Something I hold onto.” Subdued saxophones drift in and out and a kick drum quietly thumps in the background. This track also shifts at the halfway point, bringing in a full drum-set to lay down an actual slow jam beat before it stops completely to let the song just fade away. “At Sea Again” has a soulful vocal performance from Selah Sue and the most upbeat percussion (just a touch quicker than mid-tempo) on an album full of slow songs. That performance and percussion are intentionally undercut by an interlude where the beat stops entirely and a saxophone ensemble appears for a brief feature that barely resembles the rest of the song.
Will Archer obviously loves the sound of multiple saxophones playing over minimalistic accompaniment. That distinctive sound, sometimes with a clarinet added for more color, shows up again and again throughout Company. They’re part of the funky sci-fi sounding instrumental “The Way of Asprilla” and they split the spotlight with the vocals in “Down and Tell”, the record’s downtempo closer. The album’s second song, “Striding Edge”, is driven by quiet guitar and fuzzy vocals, but the saxophones figure prominently throughout the track. They flit in and out, providing a distinct, slightly jazzy sonic backing. Album centerpiece “In One Ear” is an instrumental where the saxophones are key. Soft piano chords and string bass accompaniment give way to a quietly menacing beat, and then the saxophones show up. There are snatches of melody here and there, but no real center to the song. It’s like a piece of art music created with an ensemble that happens to include saxophones and strings but also ‘80s R&B guitar.
The more heavily synth sounds figure into Slime’s songs, the more interesting they are. Album opener “Thurible” features a bluesy melodica melody but also a variety of odd, tinkling synth sounds backing it up. De facto title track “My Company” uses an odd, delayed and reverbed sound combined with a mostly closed but not quite hi-hat cymbal to provide the rhythmic bed. Then Archer ornaments it with several different blipping and twinkling sounds before finally mixing in phat bass and nearly wordless vocals. It’s probably the most fascinating track on the album with the oddest sound, but it still works as a song because of that solid rhythmic bed.
The same can’t be said for some of the more saxophone-focused experiments. When Slime gets away from the R&B grooves and goes abstract, the songs become a lot harder to get through. They’re always interesting, but not in a way that really grabs the listener and forces them to pay attention. They seem more like the work of an amateur composer that hasn’t fully developed their writing skills. This is the sort of thing Archer could definitely improve on with time, but the slightly off-kilter low impact R&B is something he’s already got figured out. R&B or pop vocalists looking for a unique take on the genre could do a lot worse than contacting Slime to collaborate.