Saturday, 25 February 2017

Sampha - Process review

Over the last few years, Sampha Sissay (who goes by just 'Sampha') has collaborated with a wealth of  incredible artists over the past few years, with the results being nothing short of spectacular (see: 'Play' with Katy B and Solange's 'Don't Touch My Hair'). With every collaboration that emerged, my expectations (along with my anticipation) for his eventual debut solo album increased tenfold, to the point where I was setting myself up for disappointment. Thankfully, I was proven wrong - this is easily one of the strongest debuts I've heard in a while.

With a voice like Sampha's it was inevitable that, at the very least, the vocals on Process would be phenomenal, that much was certain. What truly elevates this above the work of his contemporaries is the calibre of the production, which is the work of the man himself along with collaborator Rodaidh McDonald. I'm not exactly sure why I'm surprised, considering Sampha's track record as a producer; in the past he has produced and co-produced tracks for FKA Twigs, Katy B, Jessie Ware and SBTRKT among others. Even with his back catalogue in mind, he has really outdone himself here.

Take the opening track 'Plastic 100°C' for example, which combines brittle guitar plucking with a melancholic and spacey soundscape to create a stunning opener, and one that tells you exactly what kind of sonic journey you've got yourself in for. The pace is maintained with the sinister and tense 'Blood On Me', which explores feelings of guilt and despair with an almost visceral tone, a theme continued with the euphoric 'Reverse Faults'. There is also the track 'Timmy's Prayer', which continues this almost twisted sense of distortion in the production, whilst maintaining an airiness at the same time. 

As strong and cohesive as Process is, there are two tracks in particular that have jumped out at me as potential 'Song of the Year' contenders. The first is the immensely catchy 'Kora Sings', which is packed with different sounds and textures that dance around around my sonic pallet. The other is the stunning lead single '(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano', an ode to the instrument he's been playing since he was three. On this track we hear Sampha at his most intimate and impassioned, making a ~moment~ in every sense.

I first discovered Sampha back in 2011 through 'Valentine', a collaboration with the ever-wonderful Jessie Ware. It then took 6 (!!!!) years after that first interaction before he finally came through with the solo release I've been waiting so desperately for, and thankfully Process was totally worth the wait in every sense. I struggle to see how another debut album in 2017 will come close to this level of accomplishment neither in terms of vocals, nor the quality of production. 

Best tracks: Plastic 100°C, Blood On Me, Reverse Faults, Timmy's Prayer, Kora Sings, (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano

Stream the full album on Spotify below:

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