Sampha: “Space to let my imagination run wild.”

07.01.10, Words by: Theo Cooper

Whisper it quietly but there seems to be a growing consensus that electronic music is somewhere on the upwards slope of a creative peak. Everyone knows these things oscillate in waves and 2009 was a year that yielded little in the mainstream but offered fantastic riches to those digging a little deeper. Nowhere more so than in the burgeoning wonky/glitch/whatever-you-call-it scene. Like all good genres it was the cause of much debate last year: what, where, who and how fast people were keen to know? They were right to be confused; the thread that links ZOMBY to SLUGABED to DAM FUNK and back to RUSTIE to JOKER to PAUL WHITE is a hard one to follow but the fact there is one is what made 2009 so exciting and what will make 2010 even better.

Enter SAMPHA, twenty years old from Morden but musically walking the tightrope somewhere along that thread (download ‘Rainstars’ above). I caught up with him live and direct from that very London suburb at the very end of the last decade. Here’s what you need to know: he’s been producing for about four years now and playing piano since a very young age, but it all really started in ’09 with SAMPHA playing at Young Turks’ nights, working on a load of upcoming material for the brilliant Ramp Recordings and remixing the likes of THE XX (get a free download on our blog) and LAUREL COLLECTIVE. You might not have noticed him doing all that but we get the feeling you won’t be able to miss what’s coming this year.

Let’s go back to the start though, what were his earliest influences? “My biggest early influence,” he remembers kind of wistfully, “was Stevie Wonder, I remember falling in love to music listening to Stevie whilst I fell asleep. Then my four older brothers had a big influence on me. My big brother got me into Todd Edwards and Ian Pooley.” If you had to put a pin in the musical map you wouldn’t be too far off course sticking SAMPHA’s music somewhere between those two axes. There’s raw blues and soul in there rubbing up against the urban house and UKG energy of Todd ‘The God’ amongst many others. You’d need to filter it through a crackly old Nintendo though. “I guess I see my music basically as soul and blues mashed up together,” he explains. “But also like a kind of 8 bit soul maybe? Someone said that to me and I kind of liked it.”

It’s no surprise that in these high speed technological times people want a bit of fuzz, crackle and glitch to remind them the machines haven’t taken over. It worked for BURIAL who famously evoked the streets of South London through a gently crackling haze, but is SAMPHA bringing us the streets of Morden through his stuttering drums and taste-the-rainbow melodies? It seems not, unlike Burial he isn’t so much celebrating his surroundings as reaching out for somewhere else that’s more colourful, more exciting. “There isn’t much to see in Morden, it’s kind of 80s and boring. I guess growing up I had space to let my imagination run wild, I needed to.”

Sampha’s split EP with SBTRKT ‘Break Off / Evening Glow’ is coming out on Ramp Recordings in late March. There’ll also be a solo 12” ‘Neon Blue / Red’ later in the year.

Sampha’s myspace

For more glitchy sounds, get your mitts on Slugabed’s Dummy Mix here.

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