Sampha – Process

Album Review by Alexander Smail | 30 Jan 2017
  • Sampha – Process
Album title: Process
Artist: Sampha
Label: Young Turks
Release date: 3 Feb

'I didn’t really know what that lump was,' Sampha recalls on Process opener Plastic 100°C, referring to a literal lump in his throat. Even after numerous tests the doctors couldn’t find anything but, still, he worries. Some say it’s therapeutic to break the silence of your insecurities, which is what he's counting on.

Known for his work with producer SBTRKT, Sampha’s name has been drifting around since at least as far back as 2010. Since then he’s released two eclectic EPs and collaborated with Drake, FKA Twigs and, more recently, Solange and Frank Ocean. Given this pedigree of talent Sampha could have drafted anyone for Process but, aside from a Kanye West writing credit, it’s his own beast. Much of the album finds him meditating over his regrets and sorrows, calling out to deaf ears for guidance; a supporting voice would ring false.

As intimate as Process is, though, it’s ultimately a product of Sampha’s environment. Exposed to an enviable variety of music from a young age, the album is an amalgamation of his influences. He darts between R'n'B, soul and melancholic pop with ease, while his penchant for electronic production came with the territory growing up in the London grime scene; on heavier cut Blood On Me a trip-hop beat clatters beneath echoes of heavy breathing, while he howls about being hunted by faceless shadows.

More unassuming is quietly poignant (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano. Stripped back and pensive, just a few repeating chords accompany fragile vocals that remain on the brink of lachrymose. Serving as a metaphor for his late mother, Sampha reminisces about the piano at his childhood home as an escape from reality, while his voice resonates over wistful keys, before eventually soothing into the sound of birds singing.

On album closer What Shouldn’t I Be? too, he looks home, but now with guilt. Telling himself he should have spent more time with his mother while she was alive, or his brother now, instead of focusing on his career, he argues that he 'needed to grow' though remains conflicted. The song – the whole album – only works because of this heart-breaking sincerity. Process is an exercise in catharsis, a deep breath in that lays Sampha’s soul bare through gorgeous vignettes of his life. He worries, he regrets, he aches. He’s human.

Listen to: (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano, Plastic 100°C, What Shouldn’t I Be?