A Confessional Space (Sampha, Process review)

There is space for soul music in the electronic genre. So much space for it that the music goes to great lengths to amplify our own souls. And yes it’s a lot to process, but it’s worth it, I know this.

 

Sampha – Process
released February 3, 2017
********* 9/10

Sampha is a UK Singer/Songwriter who lives in the worlds of soul, r&b and electronic music. With moody and beautiful tracks and an overwhelming sense of passion to boot. When it comes to emotional jams, I never know if it’s a really a cliche at mention tropes super early on in a review, but electronic music often gets dumped in with outer space, and yet Sampha knows how to combine that sensitivity in with heartbreaking melodies, beautiful piano sequences, and explosive instrumentation.

There is a fire inside these tracks and I don’t think there is a way to put it out.

With that mentioned, there are also a great many quiet moments rooted in the fundamentals of soul and r&b throughout, and opener track Plastic 100 Degrees Celsius sets it all up nicely as far as slowburner tracks go. Investigating his mortality through an unidentified lump, Sampha lets us know right away this is not going to be the typical self-gratifying album.

This is a guy who has collaborated with some of today’s most forward thinking artists. From Frank Ocean, to Jessie Ware, to Drake to 40. Not to mention both Beyoncé and Solange, and yes he’s made his voice known with Kanye too. Working behind the scenes, this guy has been actually been working on Process for years, a lot of it coming together while his mother fought cancer, and as a consequence it is gut wrenching to listen to.

A tour de force of production, sonics, and lyrics, Sampha has proved yet again that living in the alternative will do for R&B, hip hop and soul music exactly what it did for rock in the 1990s. Make them epic. This really has been a decade of emotion, process, and processing – Sampha and his piano, are at the centre of it.

Take in the track, (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano. It perfectly demonstrates this notion.

This is an album full of standout tracks, it’s hard to look at the whole without looking at the parts, as each song could be viewed on it’s own and dissected for hours. I kind of wish I had spent more time with it before I released this review, if I’m being perfectly honest. Maybe it’s that family weaves so clearly through each of the tracks and dovetails the message of going home when you need to with What Shouldn’t I Be?.

Sampha is haunted by insecurities just like any of us, Blood on Me proves it, but there is also warmth in his longings, wishing for more time with his mother on Kora Sings.

I especially enjoyed Take Me Inside and Under, which are explosive in their instrumentation while maintaining the pace of everything else surrounding them on the album. How he is able to clearly define both his image and perception of him is something due to patience and humility, and it’s in those two tracks, among others, where we see why the current greats have worked with Sampha.

It is both a process of musical production and of grieving, and it works excellently. An opportunity to join him in his own private world of sound, even as he feels stripped away from that which he knows best.

theories Summarized

It’s a weighty powerful album and invariably one of my favourites this year.

Process is an exercise in contemplation, one that demands you sit with it, come back to it, leave it alone for a while, and then binge on it over and over again, all the while daydreaming inside your own head. It’s incredibly intricate, and it’s a process all it’s own. My theory of course.

Tim!

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