Process is an emotionally bare and richly compelling debut album, writes Tara Bharadia
Released 3rd February via Young Turks
After being prominent on the music scene for a number of years and working with the likes of Kanye West, Drake and Frank Ocean, Sampha has finally blessed us with his eagerly-awaited LP.
Way back in 2014, when Sampha decided he was ready to write his album, he stopped recording in his bedroom and starting renting out studio spaces. The product of this is Process, a beautiful piece with a lot of weight to it, coloured as it is by Sampha’s recent loss of both of his parents. In that sense, Process is his way of doing just that: processing changes to his life in recent years by looking towards his music.
Every track is written for a purpose. On a record full of ballads, Sampha explores love, life and death in the most sophisticated of ways. His own health struggles over the last year are magnified in ‘Plastic 100°C’ — “I didn’t really know what that lump was, my luck”, and in ‘Reverse Faults’ he deals with brotherly regrets over an erratic yet controlled beat. ‘Timmy’s Prayer’, co-written by Kanye West, explains love in the most peaceful yet truthful way. Sampha makes clear his feelings that love is like a prison and that he must decide if he is okay with that dynamic — “I wish that I listened when I was in prison/ Now I’m just a visitor.”
The stand out track on the album is ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’, dedicated to his late mother Binty Sissay. It is the perfect amalgamation of childhood regression and acceptance of the future, complemented by clean piano notes and a gospel-inspired chorus. After playing his first piano at the age of three, it is clear how much music shaped his childhood and is now a vessel for him to relive his warm family memories and the home he grew up in — “You know I left, I flew the nest/… And you know I’ll be back home.”
Process can be considered as an ode to his mother and is swamped with references to her, leaving us in awe of their relationship — “the more time that passes, the more I see the extent of her love for me”. Sampha’s frank explanations of his struggles after his mother’s death make ‘Kora Sings’ (“a mother needs her sons/… I just need you here”) and ‘What Shouldn’t I Be?’, an encrypted celebration of all he and his family have achieved, highlights of the album.
Sampha is one of the very few figures who has mastered the ability to make his own genre. The use of classical instruments and electronic beats combine to create an ethereal and potentially soul-shattering musical experience. What makes this album so good, however, is the precise music’s interaction with Sampha’s raw emotions. On Process, Sampha reminds us again and again that is okay to feel, as long as you let it drive you forward rather than hold you back.