Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Elsewhere was a bit underwhelmed by the 2017 debut album Process from Britain's rap-soul singer Sampha Sisay. But clearly we were out of step.
It went on to win Britain's Mercury Prize.
This follow-up which came out a few weeks ago seems to be have been a long time coming but we need to factor in Covid and the birth of his daughter Auri who he credits for the creation of this.
There's also the fact he 's a serial collaborator – in the past with Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Kanye, Drake, Solange . . . you name 'em – and so getting the nine or so other contributors here (Ibeyi, Morgan Simpson from Black Midi among them) probably took time.
It certainly takes a lot of time to read, if you can be bothered, the lengthy credits, thanks, split publishing details, contributors and others in the liner insert with the vinyl.
With that debut we concluded, “There's a lot of clever production gone into this and Sampha Sisay has certainly made an impression with this, but it feels slight in places. A good album but not the best he will make”.
This one – thoughtful but often more optimistic and in places almost celebratory in tone – might just be it.
It certainly makes another strong impression with elements of soul, grime, contemporary r'n'b, African elements (he's London-born to parents from Sierra Leone), glitch, minimalism and more.
Inspired by family (Lahai was the name of his grandfather and his middle name), this is a sophisticated musical journey through genres which are so cleverly interwoven you hardly notice you've been slipped from atmospheric soul underpinned by repetitious electronics on Spirit 2.0 (“lying in reflection, moonlight hits your skin, safe in conversation”) to the urgent Suspended (“I've been lifted by her love, I feel lifted from above”).
Unusually -- although maybe not so much given the imagery of elevation throughout -- Jonathan Livingston Seagull gets a mention in Spirit 2.0 (“just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, try catch the clouds as I free fall”) and later on a song of that name (“seasons grow and seasons die, how high can a bird every fly?”).
Although Lahai is a collection of songs in it's quiet understatement and gentle wash of reflective moods and Sampha's relaxed soulful delivery (even on the rap of Only), this sounds all of a single piece where a subtle shift of emphasis and direction opens up a new song or thought.
It does get a bit shapeless in its closing tracks but at least the mood remains consistent.
If you come here looking for dancefloor bangers you will be disappointed, this is a mature artist – and new father – who keeps things low and quiet and considered.
You could imagine little Auri drifting off to sleep to it.
But you won't.