After a commendable string of collaborations with the likes of SBTRKT, Jessie Ware and Drake, Sampha now brings to the forefront his debut, solo EP, entitled ‘Duel’.
Working with the likes of the aforementioned, his first solo release is one that will no doubt be subjected to the musical microscope and viewed through a preemptive lens. It’s been a fairly long time coming, but we finally have a window in to what an all-encompassing Sampha can produce on his own accord.
Needless to say, the body of work that makes up ‘Duel’ is short in stature, occupying a mere 17.5 minutes of ones iTunes library. This is down mainly to the two skits featured on the EP, the first of which, ‘Demons’, depicts a phone call with a love interest, the details of which ultimately unravel as the EP progresses.
We continue then, into a recurring theme of the EP through ‘Beneath the Tree’, an excellently written piece that portrays a suppressed ‘monster’ inside. Sampha uses a great metaphor in the form of a fire beneath a tree, depicting a rising desire that ultimately burns the ‘leaves’ or life blood of the tree, the fire of which is presumably comprised of his previous love(s). ‘Beneath the Tree’ acts as a nice introduction back into the youthful, nasally tone ever recognisable in Sampha’s voice.
‘Without’, I have to say, is my favourite track on the release in terms of energy and musical structure. Seemingly split in to two, the track builds in to a relatively lively house/garage crossover, still maintaining the lyrical portrayal of disillusion. I’m a little frustrated at the length of ‘Hesitant Oaf’, the second skit on the EP – I wish it were longer! A brief medley of piano and vocal conjure an atmosphere similar to that of a New Orleans social club, very nice. ‘Indecision’, much like the title would imply, reflects again the theme of the EP through the juxtaposed nature of melody and lyrics. An uplifting set of piano chords and keys, coupled with the repetition of ‘let it all work out’, make for another emotional insight, via pleasurable means.
The EP is capped off with ‘Can’t Get Close’, which for me confirmed the somewhat religious nature of the release. Sampha opens by saying ‘Father, hope you’re listening’, which could obviously be his actual father, but presumably it relates to God and the lyrics ‘can’t get close’ seem to suggest that even God can’t aid in his desires. The lyrics are accompanied by an angelic vocal overlay that again adds to the tracks ‘holy’ ambience.
As a whole, I liked the ‘Duel’ EP. I found the consistency within it’s themes to be a sign of focus from Sampha and his talents both lyrically and vocally are laid out for all to see. It won’t, however, take the fancy of those expecting some sort of amalgamation of all his previous collaborations – the production is lacking in quality and there certainly aren’t any tracks bound for the club scene.
I personally see this as a good sign of things to come for Sampha, as often your first release, especially as a singer and producer, will be focused mainly on making a bold statement that you are one in your own – something that Sampha has achieved here, even if a touch of technical quality has been squandered.
The ‘Duel’ EP is out on Young Turks on July 29th, available on CD, Vinyl and digital formats