South London native Sampha Sisay subconsciously got on my radar in 2013, collaborating with Drake on his hit “Too Much”. He then rejoined my music rotation recently, appearing on the title track of Solange’s 2016 release Don’t Touch My Hair. Going into this album, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard very little of his original material, but his debut album blew me away.
One of the standout elements of Sampha’s electric, melodic, soulful Process is the mixing. All of the instruments are perfect, and the frequent but not overpowering industrial sound effects pan from ear to ear in the cleanest way possible. I was not surprised to find out one of the best engineers in the game, TDE’s Sounwave, is responsible.
The album opens on a high note, and maintains that throughout the 10 tracks spanning just over 40 minutes. “Plastic 100°C” is the perfect introduction to what the rest of the project will sound like. A strong bass drum is juxtaposed by everything else in the song; light strings, keys from the top of the piano, soft hi-hats, but most importantly, Sampha’s voice. This is the foundation upon which Process builds. It’s so damn unique. Hearing a voice as great as this is something obviously scarce in the industry today and it’s so refreshing to hear not only on every new song, but every single listen as well.
The three singles – which gave me my introduction to Sampha – seem relatively similar, but context, they feel diverse and personal. Two of the three were slower ballads, illuminating his voice and precise production ability. The songwriting is impeccable. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” and “Timmy’s Prayer” are both songs that I find myself returning to since their release (and I foresee them remaining in my rotation), but the same goes for literally every song on Process. “Blood On Me” picks up the pace with a rapid, sporadic drum pattern, but you just know every part of the beat was carefully thought out. Sampha is not one of those artists who remains within one realm in order to please fans; it’s quite the opposite. One of the reasons this project was so pleasant for me was because he made these three songs an outline for the remaining 8 tracks. Each is different in their own way, like tangents originating from the singles.
At the moment, one of my favorite cuts is “Reverse Faults”. It’s a little more aggressive than some of the others. The anticipation to the “drop” takes nearly two minutes, about half the song, and gives me pretty much the same feeling as a 300-foot roller coaster. However, I use the word “drop” sparingly, because there’s no bass drop per se. Of course not. But there is something that happens twice in this track that makes you go “WOOOOOOOO” every time. If this onomatopoeia doesn’t literally occur (which it usually does for me), then it happens in your head and it’s hard to refrain from exclaiming it aloud.
How I feel about this album is simple. It’s beautiful. Elegant. Creative. Heartfelt. Brilliant. I strongly encourage you to listen for yourself. Although it was released in late January, I am extremely confident Process will end up on my end of the year list in a prime position.