March 30, 2017
On February 1, up and coming singer Sampha Sisay, who releases music simply by the name “Sampha,” had a watershed career moment with the release of his first proper album, known as “Process.”
The 28 year old English singer, songwriter and producer has previously made a name for himself as a collaborator and guest, and has released the extended plays “Sundanza” in 2010 and “Dual” in 2013, as well as several remixes of other artists’ work. (For those who are unfamiliar with the term, “extended plays” are releases longer than a single but shorter than a full-length album, and tend to contain about four or five tracks.)
Fader reports that Sampha has played the piano since he was a child and began to learn about music production as a teenager when exposed to a neighbor’s home studio. However, coming into contact with the music producer Kwes via MySpace in 2007 really marks his first contact with the recording industry. In recent years, Sampha has appeared as a guest with several recording industry heavy hitters, such as Drake (on 2013’s “Too Much” and this year’s “4422”) Kanye West (on 2016’s “Saint Pablo,”) and Solange (on 2016’s “Don’t Touch My Hair.)
“Process,” however, is an instance of Sampha claiming center stage. The track listing features few credited guests, with backing vocalists and a guest drummer but no performing spots from big name artists in rap, R&B or pop. Sampha is the sole credited songwriter on all but two tracks.
Musically, “Process” proves that in spite of his history on collaborative work, Sampha can hold his own just fine on a full-length solo album. Sampha expertly meshes his distinctive, soulful vocal style and expert piano work with electronic production in an elegant fashion. Tracks such as “What Shouldn’t I Be?” and the opening “Plastic 100°C” demonstrate an excellent sense of auditory texture on Sampha’s part. “Under” is a head-nodder with a beat reminiscent of hip-hop but vocals which are unmistakably Sampha. “Blood on Me” is a catchy yet driven number, which has unsurprisingly been promoted as a single. Sampha also demonstrates his ability to slow it down with heart-filled numbers like “Incomplete Kisses” and the reflective “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” which speaks to his personal musical history.
Jonny Ensall of NME said, “It’s a finely crafted and devastating take on the loss of his mother to cancer, as well as his inner turmoil at how success has dragged him away from his roots.” Sampha’s musicianship, stylistic variety, and sense of presence on “Process” make it an early front-runner for the year’s best album.