A supporting act for The xx I See You tour, Sampha releases breath taking album Process. The album is embodied with emotional depth, bringing to surface the underlying issues of mental health, love and redemption.
Sampha Sisay, an electronic-R&B artist has always been a secret star within his time as a musician within the underground music scene, but it is only now he has revealed his true potential. Working with prominent artists crucial to the music industry such as SBTRKT, Kanye West, Jessie Ware and Koreless, it was always clear from the get-go he possesed a remarkable talent. Sampha has released two EPs prior to his first album, Sundanza (2010) and Dual (2013), but these productions were undeniably a warm up for the exceptional success of Process. The release of Process focuses on what gives Sampha a personal gift. There is emotional depth and essence behind Process, where Sampha highlights the on-going issues of mental health such as anxiety and paranoia, as well as the album acting as a tribute to his mother. Like many of the artists I review, there is an masked message in the album which speaks out to Sampha’s listeners, providing support through these many significant issues.
“Plastic 100°C”, the first song to kick-start the album opens the track with a sound-clip of Neil Armstrong in Space, followed by the sound of delicate harp instrumentals combined with a deep, heavy bass, affecting our ear drums in such a way it echoes into our hearts. There is a vibrant, emotional depth that follows through with the track. The lyrics are clearly in touch with Sampha personally and there is a sensation of floating in between the carefully constructed rhythm. “It’s so hot I’m melting out here/I’m made out of plastic out here/You touched down in the base of my fears/And that’s when your beauty appears”, Sampha touches base with the real issue of anxiety. He brings to light the discomfort of being self-conscious and anxious which many of the listeners may be able to relate to. The pressure of all aspects of everyday life is revealed, and once again the song can uncover these repressed issues. Following this, I am given the impression that “Blood On Me” is a continuation from “Plastic 100°C”. The like-minded themes of paranoia and anxiety continue to present itself in this track, however, there becomes a matter of urgency and fear in his voice. This divergence is eminent in comparison to his usual chilled and soothing ambience. The core-sound of hip-hop electronica pushes the track to swift speed which coincides perfectly with the tense atmosphere of the track. Fear turns into reality and whilst these fears are non-existent, they take over and catch up with him. There is a recurring theme of self-hate throughout, and this is especially shown in “Reverse Faults”. The track builds up suspense with pulsating bass, followed by quick uncorrelated beats which expresses confusion and panic. This is electronica at its best, which categorically intensifies the track with a sense of erratic feelings from Sampha himself. “Took the brake pads out the car/And I flew/Smashed this window in my heart/And I blamed you”. There is sorrow and regret embodied in between the lines, and as soon as he reaches the chorus it’s almost as if all hell breaks loose.
Another spectacular theme of the album is captivation. In “Under” Sampha exposes himself at the hands of an enchanting woman. The track begins with the repetition of ‘Under’, escalating the matter from the start. The deep-rooted bass ultimately casts a spell over the listener where we can share the feeling of enthral captivation by the woman in question. By comparing her to thunder he singularly portrays the strong, magnetic feelings he has, despite the erroneous idea he has of her. “Timmy’s Prayer”, co-written with Kanye West, continues the twisted romantic aspect of the album. The track has a considerable edgy-impact which gave me compelling goosebumps. Whether it be the song itself or the electrifying beauty behind Sampha’s voice, it truly speaks out to the heart. The detail between the lyrics is eminent. When he sings you can honestly feel the poignant acuity so powerful that you can feel it hitting the core of your bones. The description of nature surrounding him when proclaiming his love does in fact expose his inner soul. There is indefinitely sad-romanticism represented, but naturally Sampha successfully transforms it into a beautiful masterpiece. “If heavens a prison/Then I am your prisoner”, Sampha personifies the state of mind many of us can relate to when you are in love with something that is utterly bad for us.
What brands Process as an album of musical phenomenon is the state of how it acts as a supporting comfort to its listeners. There are elements of heart felt sorrow, fiery passion, and it acts as an antidote to the issues uncovered. In “Kora Sings”, Sampha encourages the listener to look towards the bright future, and remember we are not alone. Indeed, the recurring theme of anxiety is signified, but “Kora Sings” embraces the idea of how family need each other, especially in a mother and child relationship. Plucked from a dystopian background, this track portrays the gripping reality of the real world, but reminds us we are not alone. The use of cultural conception shows Sampha’s maximum potential. The generous mixture between the serendipitous harp and graceful flutes constructs the rhythm as a bold transition into authentic music. “What Shouldn’t I Be?” acts as a concluding answer to all the questions that were built up throughout the quintessential album. There is a long-standing reservation as to what Sampha represents himself as and who he truly is. In the world we live there is a relentless struggle of cohering to what are the expectations and “What Shouldn’t I Be” becomes a form of stability for the listener. The track itself is promisingly mesmerizing, with the hope of if not resolving, it supports these issues through harmony.
As a whole, Sampha is the epitome of dreamy introspection. He sheds light on the sheltered matters of mental health which many of us reciprocate. We are told a story about each of the highs and lows life throws at us, followed by the antidote to replenish these hard-hitting circumstances. Sampha, like many of us, reveals his humanity, and spreads the message that it is okay not to be okay, exposing his full-frontal emotions to the world. The various fusions between electronica, hip-hop, R&B and ballads proves the unstoppable aptitude Sampha harbours. It is however, ambiguously intriguing as to how successful he is in extracting such intransigent issues and cultivating it into refinement through music.