Drifting Through Space
Sampha’s new record is an experience in understanding a path to nihilism through its 10 tracks. “Process” is a rare, intimate album that succeeds both as a debut for the soft-spoken artist and an exhibition for a haunted man who communicates through delicately produced alternative-R&B.
Sampha Sizay is recognized as a fresh voice with neo-soul sound with his multiple EP releases since 2011. The South London native has carved his own style into the underground electronic circles in past years, while collaborating with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B. These collaborations with, Drake, Solange, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean have shaped his sound and as an artist, echoing through this debut album.
Sampha’s delivery on “Process” puts forth the impression that he did nothing but learn through these collaborations. What follows on the album is similar to reversing a nuclear bomb: watching the mushroom cloud sink back into its metal housing to the point of detonation. To experience this album is to experience a man processing emotions of grief, love, and death.
The journey begins on the track ‘Plastic 100°C’ with the slow plucks of a harp and recordings from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on their moonwalk. “It’s so hot I’ve been melting out here/I’m made out of plastic out here,” sings Sampha, “You touched down in the base of my fears/Houston, can-can-can you hear?” He shields his true self from his lover, who is the light of his life, and soars to close for her to see. Sampha melts under her luminous presence by allowing himself to take cues from Icarus, and his self-destruction. Distant drums and ambient noises support Sampha’s soft soprano until he wades into the track’s atmosphere, much like drifting off into space.
Most of the tracks sound completely unique and tailored for Sampha’s brand of eclectic self-expression. The production combines everything but the kitchen sink, often clashing soft piano keys with dense production that would sound fitting on a new SBTRKT album.
“Process” is filled with a visual sensibility that allows the tracks to burst into a third dimension. The atmospheres he creates act as a vehicle for the listeners that float through Sampha’s tripped-out imagery in his fraught dreamscapes.
The track ‘Reverse Faults’ is the best cut on “Process”, with a harder-hitting instrumental that illustrates Sampha in a vicious cycle of self-harm for ruining his relationship with the woman mentioned in the album’s opener. The soundscape shifts from reverse to forward with layered sequences of drums backed by intense sub-bass. “I shot the blame and it scattered/Now there’s bullet holes spread across the walls,” sings Sampha. The song is beautiful in its composition and harrowing in its result, much like the album itself.
The album was released on streaming, digital, and physical on Feb. 3, 2017.