A piano drops, while a single sultry falsetto line glides seamlessly through the sky, before burning up into the heavy, melancholic atmosphere of ‘Happens’. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? A new James Blake Croon-Pop ballad maybe? No. This is the sound of Sampha finally completing his journey out of SBTRKT’s shadow.
The Duel EP set the ball rolling, with its hazy lo-fi-not-lo-fi production, cusped vocals and slighted lyricism cutting a path out of the glitchy ‘post…London’ beats of the aforementioned towering producer, which was continued star-ward by the (famous chart monolith sampled) ‘Too Much’ (the A side to ‘Happens’ AA). But its ‘Happens’ itself that, for me, establishes Sampha as a force due praise purely on his own merits, this is the one that sets him up as not just being a constantly rentable ‘feat.’ slot// Hipster Minaj.
For although on this new track there are the trademark cradled, quavering and pulsating falsetto lines and sombre piano rotations, the beats have gone, drawing Sampha’s voice and keys to the forefront. This creates a distinctly heightened prism of feels, due largely to the fact that unlike where Duels’ tracks would bend and break the vocal lines with glitchy interludes to break up the atmosphere, ‘Happens’ refuses to, which sustains the intimacy and almost leaves the listener more uneasy in the same way a Kubrick long shot is unequivocally more harrowing than a Von Trier splice fest.
Harmonically Sampha has taken a leaf out of Philip Glass’ book, as the hard wrought and contorted piano cuts are a refreshing alternative to the ‘classic’ Adele Pop shtick of left hand bass, right hand broken ‘emotional’ arpeggios, found abundantly across the land in tween bedrooms and school talent shows alike. Seriously, if this is the new Pop way to play piano (and just maybe Sampha is the new model for Pop musicians), count me in.
Sampha – Happens. Out Now on Young Turks.