Sampha likes to sing sweetly about terrible, awful things. "I think they found the blood on me," croons this year's breakout star, early on in his debut album.

The 28-year-old goes on to detail a nightmare in a forest, an escape from a group of faceless, hoodie-wearing monsters. Blood On Me's foreboding chorus ends with more midnight paranoia: "I hear them coming for me".

If you didn't pay attention to the lyrics, you'd be forgiven for thinking Blood On Me was a sweet soul song in the vein of Frank Ocean or James Blake.

But Process is full of depth and darkness, and that's exactly what makes the debut album from Londoner Sampha Sisay so mesmerising.


It's an album he's certainly taken his time with - you might recognise his smooth pipes from regular contributions to electronic project SBTRKT, and he's written for Kanye West, Drake, FKA Twigs and Solange.

But Process is Sampha's statement, and it announces the arrival of someone special. That someone is wounded, and possibly needs help. "Waves come crashing over me, I'm somewhere in open sea, gasping for air," he gasps on Under, stretching out "air" to make it sound like he's taking his last breath.

Want a ballad? Check out (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano, a tender tugger of heart strings that resembles Adele at her weepiest.

But it's Reverse Faults that delivers the album's most heartbreaking moment. Full of erratic bass thuds and spiralling alarms, he turns on that charm to sing: "Took the break pads out the car / And I flew / I smashed this window in my heart / And I blamed you."

Too raw? Probably. But in the process of running from his demons, Sampha's found himself. And, though it's only February, he's delivered a debut worthy of an album of the year accolade.

* Sampha performs at The Studio on May 24.
Sampha - Process

Label: Young Turks/XL
Stars: Five
Verdict: A debut album of breathtaking poise.