After collaborating and lending his shimmering voice to artists like Drake, Kanye West, Solange, Frank Ocean, SBTRKT and FKA Twigs, soul singer-songwriter-producer Sampha released his long-awaited debut album via Young Turks.
Blood on Me is the catchy lead single which was released in August 2016 alongside the announcement of the album’s title: “Process“. And it couldn’t have been more suitable.
Sampha’s painfully singing of an intimate process of healing, from the recent loss of his parents.
You can immediately tell his ethereal and yet powerful voice in Plastic 100° comes from a place of pain and anger, contrasting the outer space-atmosphere that comes over the whole song.
The stunning No one knows me (like the piano) reminds of a modernised version of the haunting Hope there’s someone by Antony and the Johnsons; it’s a nostalgic piano ballad about his childhood home in Moroden, London.
By the way, it also seems like he’s got a peculiar intention to be part of another big process: the research and experimentation in nu soul music that other artists from UK and especially from London have started in the last 10 years (to the point that songs like Take me inside and Reverse Faults actually sound almost as if they could have been composed by James Blake).
It could seem insignificant but we’re talking of a “process” of understanding too, from the listener’s point of view. Such a well-structured and difficult track like Kora Sings sounds so experimental, rich in layers, instruments, changes and influences that vary from electro to catchy dance, from afro to asian, that it takes a while and way more than one listening to fully embrace it.
Sampha is a perfectionist, he co-produced his album himself, but as you carry on with the rest of the record, a song like Kora Sings ends up being as an isolate case of perfection. The excellent voice of this new John Legend is still the strongest element of his work in general, and often it’s the only element holding the whole song together.
By the way some tracks indulge too much on a bed of sheer keyboards like in Under, which could easily remind of Sohn but with less rhythm.
In the beautiful Timmy’s prayer he relies almost exclusively on his stunning sharp voice and the tracks actually would result weaker otherwise.
The result is a lack of a touch of originality now and then; the electro-nu soul sounds and his urgent songs sometimes don’t combine.
Nevertheless it is not easy to unravel Sampha’s world and this album immediately appears to be literally complex. “Process” is in fact is the meeting point of many music genres that merge and weave together ; it’s a choir of different voices-now painful and delicate, now angry and strong.
His voice has an undeniable power but it rests solely with Sampha; in the last track of the album he asks himself What shouldn’t I be but it gets hard to get a sense of who he actually IS.
I guess the answers will reveal itself over time. There’s no doubt that Sampha’s inner nature is deep and he hopefully will show his true power on whatever comes next.