Caffeinatted Beats

Text by Emily Bick

Photography by Gabriel Green

Two of the most appealing tracks on Slime's new EP, Increases, are the jaunty new jack swing styled, "Next Time" and "First Cape". Reminiscent of Bell Biv DeVoe and Boys II Men, or even LL Cool J's "Around the Way Girl," it is the sound of early '90s summers spent in NYC and Philadelphia. Of basketball courts and stoops, shooting the breeze - but with added echo, delay, and distortion. It's a sound that has surfaced in the songs and mixtapes of bands like How to Dress Well and Autre Ne Veut, and steamrollered its way from the basement bars of east London's Kingsland Road onto hot summer pavements. When asked, Slime, aka Will Archer, is coy. At 20, he is too young to have registered the originals. He says he doesn't listen to anything from the '90s, "unless I'm really drunk and out, because it's sort of party music." And he doesn't really listen to new music, unless it's just on in the background.

So where does that sound come from? "Playing drums for so long, the first thing I think about in any song I've written is finding a tempo and building tiny little things around it until you get a rhythm. Rhythm dictates everything for me," he explains. He obsesses over each detail of a track, and his working process depends on total isolation - away from friends, from other music, from any potential distraction. In a time when all music is available online, instantly, all the time, Slime isn't even tempted to trawl blogs and YouTube for inspiration. "I don't want the way I'm making my music to be altered. I mean, I'm open to ideas and things, but it seems to be working quite well for me as it is."

A few weeks prior to this interview, he was drumming on tour with the band Vondelpark, who guest on two tracks on the EP. "I saved up to buy a drum kit when I was 12, by doing stupid little chores and that for my parents. Then I got massively into the whole dubstep thing in 2006." It was around that time, as a teenager in Newcastle, that Slime got into recording. He discovered FL Studio [formerly Fruityloops] software, graduated to Pro Tools, and eventually Logic. The possibilities offered by Logic and a microphone drives Increases. "You can hear the more subtle things in someone's voice, like their breath." Slime says. "I love my microphone, because I can record anything I want, and just play with it endlessly."

"Caffeine" is an ideal example. The first thirty seconds are full of doors creaking open, shoes squeaking across parquet, random slaps and thuds of what turn out to be sacks of coffee beans in transit. Slime recorded it at his father's coffee factory back in Newcastle. It sounds like the voicemail message from a friend who has sat on their phone and inadvertently pocket-dialed you. The type that borrows a James Taylor sample from background radio before stretching into shrill, post-autotune distorted squawks as the bassline and beat kick in. "Caffeine" is that rare song that blends familiar elements into something strange and unsettling. Something that, despite the sampling, tugs on awkward memories without the crutch of retro in its production or instrumentation.

How can such a personal song have so much universal appeal? "It was pretty melancholic but quite uplifting in a weird sort of way," Slime says. "I think a lot of people can relate to that. There are no lyrics, they're mishmashes of words and they don't really mean anything. Just layers of harmonies and they resonate with certain memories in peoples' minds. I played my dad that song and he listened to it a few times and was like, 'I understand it now.' Everyone understands it differently, but they understand it."

Increases is out now on Tough Love Records.

  • Slime