Sampha – Process

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On his debut album, Sampha comes good on the immense promise he’s shown so far.

You’ve probably heard Sampha’s voice. He has appeared on recent records from SBTRKT, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Drake and Frank Ocean, to name a few. It’s that voice that has meant his debut album is the one record so many cannot wait to hear in 2017. And it’s that voice that makes Process the most intimate of albums.

 

You feel Sampha’s fear and fragility in ‘Plastic 100°C’, his cosmic references are a very thin veil for his emotions. His manic paranoia in ‘Blood On Me’ is so acute you can practically feel his heart thumping wildly in his chest.

You feel him looking for strength in the wake of his mother’s passing in ‘Kora Sings’ and ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’. You understand (and probably relate to) his shame and his loss in ‘Reverse Faults’ and ‘Timmy’s Prayer’.

Sampha produced the record with XL Recordings’ Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, How To Dress Well, Savages) and offers a dark palette of sounds. With a voice like Sampha’s the arrangements can afford to be sparse, though a few more charged up tracks like ‘Blood On Me’ wouldn’t go astray.

The warm synths and floating, atmospheric vocals perfectly match the reflective lyrics of ‘What Shouldn’t I Be?’. The booming bass, woozy, processed backing vocals and synthetic handclaps make ‘Reverse Faults’ a little confounding musically, but that voice serves as a perfect anchor to bring everything back to earth.

This isn’t a perfect record, which somehow makes it even more exciting. Sampha has room to grow as he learns how to live as the main act, not the guest star. Process won’t be his best record, he’ll try new things, work with new people and eventually the whole world will know who he is. It just seems inevitable.

There’s a lot of brilliant neo-soul/modern R&B out there right now, so it takes something special to stand out. Sampha does more than that with his debut album, he’s beaten a path to the top of the ladder. It’s only a matter of time before he takes the throne.

If you’ve been excited about Sampha’s debut album, the payoff won’t disappoint. If this is your first encounter with him, this could be the start of something very special. 

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