new music: sampha turns grief into mesmerizing electro-soul on impressive debut ‘process’ #soundcheck

February 9, 2017

The specter of cancer haunts Sampha’s Process. The electro-soul singer songwriter lost his father in 1998 and his mother in 2015, and finds himself reflecting on their loss, as well as his own mortality throughout the record. Songs like “Plastic 100ºC,” “Blood on Me,” and “Kora Sings” are full of grief and longing, confusion and fear.”You’ve been with me since the cradle…please don’t you disappear.” The album marries Sampha’s grief to inventive minimalist electro-soul, with electric whizzes and burrs cutting against the open humanity of his emotional voice. Sampha’s delicate piano is sometimes mechanical, sometimes ethereal, but always heartbreaking. When Sampha sings “No One Knows Me Like the Piano,” it’s entirely possible it’s true. When Sampha closes out with the spare “What Shouldn’t I Be?” he seems to switch from the perspective of his parents, his brothers, and himself, singing “you can always come home.” The memories of lost opportunities and wasted moments, old fights and unresolved arguments collide in a wash of longing coalescing into one important final realization: “it’s not always about me.”

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK contributor