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"Dual EP"

Sampha – Dual EP
25 July 2013, 10:00 Written by Steve Lampiris

The thing about great press is it has a tendency to snowball into an avalanche. After critic-pleasing excursions with SBTRKT’s debut LP and Jessie’s Ware’s ‘Valentine,’ it seemed like Sampha was on the rise, his kinetic energy impossible to derail.

This was all but confirmed by the recent Drake-collaboration, resulting in the fantastic ‘The Motion’. Sampha’s first official solo outing, then, has some serious potential to live up to.

The six track Dual EP finds the bedroom soul producer expanding upon his voyeuristic production by – paradoxically enough – condensing it down to the finer points. There’s little of his jittery percussion here, largely leaving the production – bedroom lush, as it may be called – to stand on its own feet. While verdant, his work isn’t so in an expensive-sounding manner; instead, it’s layered without sounding processional. ‘Beneath the Tree,’ finds a watery synth joined with tentative piano lines, the pair of which is surrounded by gently thumping electronics. Similarly, ‘Without’ pulses and squirms under nervous sonics.

But Sampha can stun without multi-layered arrangements, too. Being a piano ballad, ‘Indecision’ forces the listener’s attention to his emotive voice. Armed with only piano and some vocal samples deep in the mix, Sampha is able to move you simply through his vocals, especially when he employs falsetto to punctuate particular words or phrases. When he sings, “Let it all work out” during the song’s chorus, it’s as much armchair advice as it is desperate appeal. Likewise, the two sub-minute songs, ‘Demons’ and ‘Hesitant Oath,’ play like hymns with their mixing seemingly intentionally left in demo form – a stark contrast to the other four songs that gives these two quasi-interludes a feel as if they’re another window into Sampha’s mind.

Or a fleeting glance into his (capital-s) Soul. Which isn’t to say his lyricism is unable to do that – quite the opposite, in fact. The bare-naked duality of emotion lies at the centre of this EP, and with striking turns of phrase. A song discussing one-night-stands vs. love, ‘Without’ finds Sampha battling his own feelings towards a girl: “I see the pictures that you take/ The darkness in your days don’t change.” But at the end of the song he’s pleading with her (and possibly himself) that they don’t have to leave each other when the night ends as he repeats, “Just say, ‘We don’t have to go’/ OK?” Then there’s the aforementioned ‘Indecision’ containing Dual’s best lyric: “Flight of noise, buried in the wise of heart/ And as the moon protects, the moon projects a light on everything we said.” If there’s a more effective way to suggest the twofold nature of emotion, I haven’t seen it recently.

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