Sampha – Process

This could easily be the shortest album review we’ve written to date because it can be summed up in two words “simply magnificent”. However an album of this stature deserves more words, and thus it shall receive them.

It seems hard to believe that we’ve waited nearly seven years since the release of his debut EP (‘Sundanza’) on Young Turks for this full length to come out. In that time Sampha’s collaboration checklist has included the likes of Jessie Ware, SBTRKT, Lil Silva, Drake, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and Solange. He also graced the BBC’s 1Xtra with a cover of DV favourite ‘Gabriel’ by Roy Davis Jr. and Peven Everett earlier this week. You certainly can’t accuse him of being lazy in the intervening period.

‘Process’ is an apt title for the album as it feels like the path Sampha has charted through his musical career to date has been just that for him. A method through which to discover a sound that is truly representative of him and allow him to deliver personal message with an authentic voice.

Emotions such as heartache, confusion and frustration spill forth from the expertly composed, voiced and arranged tracks of this album. Sampha manages to stitch together a varied range of sounds and styles across the album. From the naked exposure of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’ to the abstract forms of ‘Incomplete Kisses’. You’re driven fast in one moment by ‘Blood On Me’ before being spun around in a daze by ‘Kora Sings.

Two constants exist throughout; a truly unique voice that manages to be raw yet accomplished in the same breath, and a command of song craft honed through dedication, an appreciation of a wide palette of influences and diverse collaborations.

I know there have been disagreements in the DV camp in the past as to how good Sampha as a solo artist really was. It’s fair to say we are all firmly on the same page now. Well done Sampha, may 2017 bring all the success that your simply magnificent album deserves.

Jessie Ware – Running

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Can you ask the same question about a remix? Simply put, no! Without an original track, what would there be to remix. That doesn’t mean to say that in order to discover a remix you need to know the original. Certainly that was the case with my first encounter (so I thought) with South London’s Jessie Ware.

Driving can be a great time to listen to music for the first time. If something doesn’t grab me on the radio within the first 15-30 seconds, the dial’s getting switched pronto. So it’s probably a good thing that the first time I clocked the Disclosure remix of Jessie Ware’s new release Running it was post drop (circa 1:17). As a rule, I don’t fall deep for 90s influenced, disco beat house tracks. This one however shot straight from the hip and planted itself firmly in my mind from the first listen. I waited anxiously to hear the track again and was rewarded two hours later when I arrived at my final destination, only to sit in the van, eyes closed, soaking up the full glory of what I have absolutely no doubt will become a terrace / dance floor / roller disco filler this summer.

The intro is sparse, like you’re late on in a dream and being woken gradually by a soft voice before being kick jolted out of your slumber. That initial post sleep haze is still in place before the first deep intake of breath, signaled here by the upward sweep into rapid vocals and expanding synth lines. All of this ushers you along before dropping you into an infectious 125 disco shuffle, all soft claps with equally soft vocals. There’s definite power behind the voice, it’s just not forced. The bass is deep and stutters subtly at times. All in all, you’re going to struggle not to be hooked in by this one.

So what of the original? I’ll be honest, I’ve been left feeling short changed before when hunting out an original after being introduced to a track through a super strength remix. Thankfully, this couldn’t have been further from the case with Running.

Having absolutely no knowledge or preconception of what this track may be like, I was in a good frame of mind when I got round to my first listen. At first you think you’ve been sucked into a sci-fi special, that is before the organic kick (complete with a slight rim shudder) beats its way into the track. The next thing to hit you is the soft parp of a horn (sampled, synthesised, I’m not sure, I don’t care, I do love it). The song keeps giving, next up is the beautifully layered vocal, with an even more seductive tone to it at the more relaxed tempo of the original. This continues throughout the track with the addition of simple yet devastatingly hooky guitars, 60s soul style backing vocals and a jumble of natural and artificial percussion.

Listen on the best pair of headphones you can get your mits on because the production values on this track are top, TOP drawer! The way sounds appear in exactly the right place at a level that complements all around it, whilst still holding their own at the same time. Jessie has Radio 1 new boy Julio Bashmore and The Invisible front man Dave Okumu to heartily thank for this. Nice job boys.

Ms Ware’s name is one I knew I’d heard before, but it was only after some iTunes searching that I fully appreciated her presence in the UK scene over the past year or two. She’s previously teamed up with SBTRKT on a few tracks from his (D&V rated) self titled debut. She’s also featured on tracks with fellow SBTRKT contributor Sampha and Bristol heavyweight Joker.

Whilst all being solid offerings, I think JW’s found her home with the sound of Running. And by all accounts that the direction we can expect from her debut album which is expected later this year. I know where I’ll be running to for that one!

P.S. Much love for the video. Watch…

Worldwide Awards 2012 @ Koko, London

Ever since hearing Hold On by SBTRKT last year, I was determined to see Messrs Sampha and SBTRKT perform live. The self-titled lp released on Young Turks marries garage and broken beat influences to create what Pitchfork strangely term ‘post dub-step’. The album includes huge vocal performances and flows seamlessly from start to finish. Unfortunately, 2011 was a year of fails vis-à-vis catching the live show. Glastonbury: couldn’t reach the tent in time. Brixton: SBTRKT were replaced by Big Pink as support to Friendly Fires. First headline London gig in 2012: sold out.

Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards 2012 presented the perfect opportunity to see them live. Winners of the Worldwide award for best long player with the self-titled debut, SBTRKT’s performance at London’s Koko was just one of many highlights on a memorable night.

Take the Pyramids, whose 1970s ‘jazz cabaret’ was considered too future until they recently reformed. Their set was brought to life by charismatic front man Idris Ackermoor who switched to tap shoes part way through the show and won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hudson Mohawke, Lefto and, fast becoming my favourite Brighton via LA dj, Kutmah, served up juicy disc jockey sets before Michael Kiwanuka enchanted the sell-out crowd with a beautiful vocal performance.

Kiwanuka, the BBC’s pick for Sound of 2012, has been criticised already for lacking originality. My view is that people hanker for wholesome music, particularly when delivered by gifted vocalists. Kiwanuka delivers on both counts, epitomised by Tell me a Tale and Home Again.

The award for best label went to Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus’ all-star roster which includes the likes of Daedelus, recent joiner Lapalux and Thundercat. The latter was in London to collect the award and play live alongside fellow label mate – and ridiculously gifted pianist – Austin Peralta. This set had everything Fly Lo’s at the Roundhouse didn’t – not least live music. From the lush, California sun-infused Is it Love? to the ethereal For love (I Come Your Friend), the poncho-wearing bassist glided effortlessly through his set. If you missed The Golden Age of Apocalypse last August (or were in two minds like me), give it a go.

Jamie XX followed, playing a bashment retake of Drake’s Take Care. This track started out as Jamie XX’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron‘s I’ll Take Care of You. Heron’s death last year ended a genre-defining career in music; his far-reaching influence was celebrated at the Worldwide awards.

Then the main event: SBTRKT live. The masked duo combined drums, keys, vocals and sequencer to full effect, pounding the heavyweight Koko soundsystem. Little Dragon‘s Yukimi Nagano joined for Wildfire but it was Sampha’s soaring vocal throughout the set that did most for the soul.

And so it was that I heard SBTRKT play Hold On live. What is it the people at Guinness say?