Process isn’t really a word one would associate with Sampha. It’s a word that evokes the mechanical, something calculated, essentially everything that the London soul star doesn’t seem like.
And as the opening track Plastic 100°C starts taking its distinctly organic course, it becomes clear that “process” might not be the noun we initially thought but the verb instead. Instead there’s a wounded man here, trying to make sense of the world in his own way.
If he’s searing under that heat as inanimate plastic, he feels on the run on Blood On Me, starting with the imagery of grey hoodies and questioning his own legitimacy as a person. Like his collaborator Solange, he turns inward instead of blazing political guns and the record feels even more memorable because of it.
That’s not to say there’s nothing here for a casual listener, as the electronic fairground trickery of Kora Sings provides a standout moment, funnily enough placed next to the spare, piano-only ballad (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano. It mercifully veers away from John Legend territory, with Sampha layering his own vocal to give us the cloistered chamber-choir of his dreams.
He can do it all, then, and unlike other modern soul stars he isn’t chasing that dream to be an over-produced Seal 2.0 (Kwabs and Gallant, we’re looking at you). But it’s hymns of self-doubt that make this stand out, like highlight Take Me Inside. It marks the start of a second half that delves more into heartbreak (Incomplete Kisses), the final stroke being the very direct-title What Shouldn’t I Be?. Sampha may be putting a lot up for question, but one thing most certainly is not: this is the first stroke of painting Sampha as not only a rounded artist but a veritable soul star.