Sampha - Process

Rory Ellis reviews Sampha's new album, Process

Rory Ellis
23rd February 2017

The release of Sampha’s album Process has been long awaited and as it should be. This album, centred mostly on the grief of losing his mother to cancer, embodies a moving depiction of feelings in the aftermath of loss. Projecting the raw sentiments of despair and longing through glossy layers of synthesised sounds and loops integral to Sampha’s method of storytelling.

"Sampha’s words feel distant amidst the chaotic presence of synthesised noise"

The album begins with ‘Plastic 100°c’, using a sample of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon, Sampha leads the listener towards to the dreamlike space of his album. And with this he introduces us to the traits of Process that simulate a perspective far removed from reality. Interestingly he said of his Mother’s loss in an interview, “It’s like a dream you never…It’s never gonna feel real.” And such is the feeling that is produced when the raw and occasionally faltering voice of Sampha is immersed and, at times, submerged in the mechanical sounds inhabiting almost every song.

The launch of Sampha’s solo career is, in part, due to his collaborations with SBTRKT. Seemingly from whom, many traits of their techno soul have been transplanted into Process. While in SBTRKT’s music, Sampha’s voice rests above the beat, gaining himself a spotlight which sheds light on his undoubtedly gifted vocals. This release tends to demonstrate his voice sinking below the various loops and intricate layers of electronica. Songs like ‘Reverse Faults’ and ‘Under’ create an environment in which Sampha’s words feel distant amidst the chaotic presence of synthesised noise. A distance that resonates with his experience of loss. Though the withdrawn nature of the tracks make artistic sense of the grief he feels, it regrettably comes at the expense of being forgettable in places.

"it is a bold album treating his loss with sensitivity and grace"

This is not, however, the case for the entire album, with songs like ‘(No one knows me) Like the Piano’ providing a standout track, which punctures the spaced out texture of the songs preceding it. The simplicity of the piano allows Sampha’s voice to carefully dominate and triumph in the way it did in tracks with titans such as Drake and Frank Ocean. Further still, the occasional fragility of his voice paired with the tender nature of the lyrics provides a necessary human intermission to what is an overwhelmingly slick album.

Similarly ‘Blood on Me’ marks a change in the course of Process, drawing upon the same hypnotic frequency of the album but with an increase of tempo and a forceful beat that takes it up from a dream to a nightmare. Hearing the lyrics ‘I wake up and the sky’s blood red/ I’m still heavy breathing’ set to the rhythm of a distressed pant, puts these anxieties in a palpable atmosphere. This shows Sampha’s willingness to put his insecurities at the forefront of his first album. And though Process sometimes betrays its truthfulness for the stylistic representation of grief, it is a bold album treating his loss with sensitivity and grace.


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