Slime Ring is Sebastian Marquez, a queer Latinx musician and gaming ephemera enthusiast based in Decatur. These two aspects of Sebastian’s identity couldn’t be laid more bare than on his debut EP SLM_RNG_EP.
Needless to say, 2020 was a year of marked change for bands and the people behind them. This is exactly the case for Sebastian, who was robbed of his band and many opportunities because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To stoke his irrepressible need to create, Sebastian turned inward and found the inspiration required to jumpstart his own intensely personal experimental pop project. SLM_RNG_EP is the crystallization of that withdrawn notion. As a delightfully self-indulgent work, Sebastian wears his influences on his sleeves and flits from genre to genre across an unhurried 14-minute runtime.
“02_SLM_RNG_LIT” introduces Sebastian’s crooning voice as an integral element to the EP’s texture, a sort of Thom Yorke-inflected wail with an earnest, almost tragic tinge. Sebastian’s voice isn’t the main focus of the EP, though—he later dives into watery, minimal synth on “03_SLM_RNG_interluder,” then emerges with the glassy, melodic oscillation of “04_SLM_RNG_VIB.” “This is not supposed to happen,” he sings, before his voice soars high above a discordant field of strumming.
SLM_RNG_EP is at times reminiscent of the repetitive lurch of modern classical artists like Steve Reich and Harold Budd while simultaneously channeling the dreamy, sensitive notions present in RPG soundtracks. Both are integral underpinnings to what we consider “pop” music in modern times—I’m reminded of the pastoral nostalgia on Yasunori Mitsuda’s Chrono Cross soundtrack as well as the open-hearted dissonance of Kota Hosino’s work on Evergrace.
The influences don’t let up there, though; Slime Ring is nothing if not eclectic. “05_SLM_RNG_HOP” leads with a nervous trap snare, which beautifully fuses with Sebastian’s complicated guitarwork. Strings are introduced in “07_SLM_RNG_finale_reprise,” which add an organic sense of finality to an otherwise introverted record. There’s a keen attention to the emotion present in every musical expression within Sebastian’s reach, whether that be “sad girl” R&B or sounds trapped in an old SNES cartridge. It contorts into a clear-eyed and restrained examination on loneliness, memory, and new beginnings. Every hero’s journey starts with a call to adventure—SLM_RNG_EP sounds like it comes just before then, trapped in quiet paralysis.