Sampha - Process (2017)
I find that a lot of even really great R&B singers sing with a super-polished, flowery style. Some of the best can approach clean perfection. In contrast to that, Sampha’s voice is raw. Process is still a very beautiful record, and Sampha’s vocals stand as the main source of that beauty. But there’s a human quality in how he sings that adds an enormous depth of character. It’s something which many “perfect” pop singers don’t have. To quote the artist himself, he has “something people call a soul,” and it shines through in his voice. Sampha’s words feel honest, and it feels genuine to hear him sing about his thoughts and emotions.
One of Sampha’s particular talents on Process lies in his keen ear for layering. His use of varied sounds, combined to create magical, cohesive soundscapes, is evident all over the record, but “Under” in particular stood out to me as the most novel track. The song not only used a large range of both live and sampled percussion, rhythmic synths, a synth bassline, and atmospheric notes, but also mixed two or three vocal tracks in. From a lesser artist, this might have produced a cluttered, overly-busy track. But Sampha’s production techniques lent artistic authority to the song, in how well-massaged each part was into the larger piece.
As good as the electronics are on Process, it was in equal part the live instrumentation which made the record great. There’s a great emphasis on the piano playing on several tracks, and contrasting the electronic overtones, many songs center around a piano progression. This alone isn’t unusual in electronic music. Many producers start at the piano to structure the skeleton of a track. Where Sampha differs is in how much of his piano is left over afterwards. Instead of shaving off the real piano sound in the production process, Sampha roots his most powerful songs in the live instruments, adding to that human tone. While the electronics are handled masterfully, it’s the instruments which help make Process the most soul-baring, and the timbre of Sampha’s vocals which sell the sincerity.
#sampha #process #randb #electronic #soul #alternativerandb #gospel #neosoul