The death of a loved one is often described as a dream-like experience and Process, an album inspired by the death of Sampha’s mother in 2015, entirely embodies this. An ethereal feel circulates through the album, emerging from Sampha’s unmistakable soprano articulating tortured lyrics, against an equally unique blend of genres. His voice cracks at the end of ‘Take Me Inside’ as he asks “maybe this is all a dream?” echoing the feelings of confusion and self-doubt constant in the album.
Sampha has always played with space-age sounds and cosmic themes, particularly with long-term collaborator SBTRKT. Now, on his solo mission, lyrics such as “it’s like outer-space in his inner ears” and quotes from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on their moon landing are woven throughout the opening track, ‘Plastic 100°C’, where the idea of space is used to comprehend the other-worldly feelings of grief.
Sandwiched between synth-heavy tracks and his erratic, electronic beats are beautifully elegant piano ballads. In ‘No One Knows Me like the Piano’ Sampha addresses that his piano, given to him at the age of three, “took hold of me and never, never, never let me go”. Having lost both parents, these tracks, placed at the centre of the album, highlight the single point of constancy in the artist’s life, the piano. Its subject matter may be age old, but Process is entirely innovative.
Harrowing as it is beautiful, authentic as it is uncertain, Process is assured to be the debut we were all desperate for.