Although he’s been producing since he was 13-years-old, Sampha is, so far, best known for his collaborations. The 24-year-old has worked with electronic icon Aaron Jerome, or SBTRKT; he’s produced and provided vocals for high-profile artists like Drake, on his track “The Motion.”
Now, Sampha is breaking away from the sidekick role to focus on his own material. Don’t be fooled—his latest project is nothing like his work with SBTRKT. Dual is an intensely intimate EP full of love, heartbreak and struggle. The opening track, “Demons,” lays down a raw tone that weaves throughout the EP’s six songs. The rough bedroom recording has Sampha ignoring a message on his answering machine, while his phone blows up with text messages in the background. Sampha’s vocals fade in and out as he laments, “Take all these demons and go.” The relaxed nature of the instrumentals somewhat masks the tension in Sampha’s lyrics. As calm keys and smooth beats patter in the background, Sampha reveals an inner struggle on tracks like “Beneath The Tree,” where he sings, “Don’t fail me now, I need your wishes/there’s a monster inside of there/but I’m going to keep it there,” and on “Indecision,” where he hesitantly repeats the phrase, “Let it all work out.”
Sampha’s material finds its footing in smooth piano melodies, with a slight overlay of ambient synths and stripped down drum beats. But of all the instruments he uses, Sampha’s most powerful tool is his voice. He carries a clean and soulful R&B croon that ebbs and flows with emotion, building in grandeur and sliding into soft whispers.
Despite the down-and-out nature of the EP’s content, Dual won’t leave you feeling low. Its subtle euphoria lies within the scope of Sampha’s soft melodies and refreshing instrumental work. Dual is an EP that feels like an LP. It’s lengthy in the sense that you could get trapped in Sampha’s world of cool harmonies for days. And, after several listens, you realize that might not be such a bad thing.