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Review: Sampha – “Process”

Process

The U.K.’s Sampha finally came off of his debut album and it is called Process. The project’s release coincided with his tour stop in Chicago at the Metro Theater – definitely an exciting time for the man.

The album itself, available on iTunes, features no other artists and is ten tracks long of uniquely British R&B flavor. It’s a dope offering that covers a lot of bases as far as debut albums go.

Still, I’m not sure it’s the best introduction to Sampha for those looking for one. It’s a colorful palette of emotional expression that takes on some fairly unique forms over the course of the album. The opening track “Plastic 100°C” serves as a solid pace maker for what follows.

It’s a soothingly melodic tandem of R&B and something a bit more electronic. The song’s use of percussion and other digital sounds is interesting, subtle, and helps transform it into something beyond just R&B.

“No One Knows Me (Like the Piano)” could be either a highlight or lowlight of the project depending on who you ask. For me, it’s surely the former. Sampha’s soul shines through here more than on most other songs. This is partially because of the lack of debatably unnecessary instrumentation. It’s 95% Sampha and the piano, which is arguably when he’s at his best.

“Reverse Faults” is another ear-catcher featuring distinct electronic sounds layered on top a soulful bedding. It’s a solid product, and benefits from equal balancing of all the different sonic and stylistic influences.

Process is a good but flawed album. It’s so tough to find that balance between mainstream appeal and non-compromised, organic flavor. By all means, Sampha accomplished this with this project. Perhaps it’s unfair for me to have wanted something Process to be a bit less experimental. There’s also a few tracks that, to me, came across as filler songs which I utterly, and snootily despise.

It should definitely be noted that Sampha’s songs translate much, much better through live performance than through a studio recording, for what it’s worth. To understand why check out this piece on his recently performed show at Chicago’s Metro Theater.

 

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