Sampha Sisay is known for his collaborations with other artists. His vocals resonate on Drake’s tracks “The Motion” and “Too Much,” in Solange’s recent “Don’t Touch My Hair” and Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo.” The South London native has shared his distinct sound with the world through these and more, combined works and a few EPs, but under the surface he has been conjuring up a complete work of his own. Last Friday, he released his first full-length album “Process,” through his label Young Turks.
Sisay was just three-years-old when his father gave him a piano. Although his father meant it to simply provide a productive distraction from TV, the instrument brought much more into the young musician’s life and remained a constant after the onset of personal tragedies.
The music of Sampha bleeds with emotion yet conveys strength and seamless composition. On “Process” he exemplifies his relationship to the piano in his mother’s London home. His mother passed away last September after an extensive battle with cancer. The song titled “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” was released prior to the publication of the album and provided a lens into the work to come.
The track is a quiet ballad featuring his own solo piano and a calm choral support of his own harmonizing tones. He sings in regards to his beloved instrument and how it continues to connect him to his mother, “You would show me I have something, some people call a soul.”
The song subtly demonstrates the influence of music and creative process through times of grief.
An incredibly passionate and productive musician, Sampha has been composing songs throughout the years and had about 40 to choose from to arrange this album, according to The Fader magazine.
The work as a whole emotes Sampha’s “sound” that is very original and distinguishing. His background and experience in sound production remains apparent and each track characterizes the elaborate and alternative voice of the artist.
The song that opens the album “Plastic 10°C” structures a wide array of sounds that blend into each other like a painting.
The electronic echoes meet smooth vocals and a soft beat. His lyrics on the track hint at the delicacy of life and what it feels like to be “melting” in fear.
The engineered beat in the song “Blood on Me” is a more fast-paced tempo, implying a sense of urgency. The track alludes to a theatrical image, in a way that is perhaps foreshadowing his upcoming film by Kahlil Joseph. The film will release on March 17 on Apple Music and depicts his life influences and ancestral roots of Sierra Leone.
In Genius’ video series “Verified,” Sampha breaks down this track further, revealing that the listener is to be pulled in with “repetitive” and “hypnotic” sounding voices. The lyrics end up representing a dream world, where he is on the run from himself.
Much the album is hypnotic, with very abstract and rhythmic noises. Some songs feature a harp-like instrument, most prominent in “Kora Sings.” The track “Reverse Faults” flows with heavy bass and musical structure that becomes more and more familiar with listening.
Sampha’s music is very expressive. The sounds tend to build up, very different elements of the music seem to play to another and really belong, each song cultivates complexity.
The lyrics provide an intimate insight to his mind, his experiences with life, love, worry and sorrow. “Process” demonstrates the persistence of a consistent tone and encompasses something everyone can either relate to or appreciate.