Known largely for his collaborations with big time hip-hop artists like Solange and Drake, London-based producer/keyboardist/singer Sampha Sisay released his disarmingly beautiful debut LP, Process, earlier this year.
This album will shred your heart. Through electro-tinged R&B, Sampha works through the death of his mother and the aftershocks of grief that still buckle him. Against a gorgeously wrought piano melody with fuzzy electronic samples and voiceovers that sound taken from an aircraft cockpit, opening track “Plastic 100°C” uses the sun as a metaphor for this overwhelming pain—he can’t yet look at it directly, but feels like plastic melting in its heat.
Sampha’s voice sounds a little different in every song, warped by different manifestations of his sorrow. On the opener his vocals are taut, strained by the presence of a mysterious lump in his throat. He’s completely out of breath throughout “Blood on Me,” a track that courses with anxiety and adrenaline as he fears, “I swear they smell the blood on me/I hear them comin’ for me.” His voice is grounded and soulful on “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” an ode to his nearly lifelong relationship with the piano, specifically the one he learned to play in his mother’s house.
Song by song, the aptly named Process reflects Sampha’s struggle to endure through wild waves of pain. It’s an incredible record, both in its shimmering production and powerfully vulnerable lyrics. Few are able to do what Sampha does well, so let’s hope we’re just hearing the first notes of a long and prolific solo career.