On Big Dada
You only have to hear a couple of bars of Samuel's music to realise there is something very special going on. The exuberant, widescreen electronic production alone is special. The songs thrust forward excitingly, all colourful bleeps and bass, and drums as informed by hip hop as dance music. Then Samuel starts to sing, and the music becomes truly startling. With a voice that's more Frank Ocean than James Blake, this 'wee gypsy,' as he describes himself, has a soulful tone so natural and unforced its absolutely thrilling.
Samuel grew up in Ireland, raised in gypsy camps and children’s homes, and living homeless for a ‘good chunk’, he initially found relief in the music therapy on offer at the homes. His talent stood out, and won him a series of scholarships that lead to a place at Goldsmith's university. This story shows in his music only via its sheer quality, which explains his astonishing story entirely. Samuel's music makes other crooners sound cripplingly restrained; there's no miserablism here, just visceral optimism, desire and fun. If ever music has captured the sense of being young in a big city, thrusting out into a night full of promise, this is it. Its tempting to hear some of his pre-history in 'slimy gypsy camps' in the music's freedom, wildness and touch of devilment. His inspiration though is rooted in field recordings and his observations of London, bits of chatter, the ‘sounds from my diary’ that he encounters out and about are manipulated and added to. He doesn’t write down lyrics. ‘Over time,’ he says, ‘words tumble and glue together.’ All of which goes some way to explaining the yearning urgency in his voice and lyrics.
His debut EP Falling Star was released on Technicolour in 2013, and received high praise from the likes of Pitchfork, Dazed and Dummy magazine. The follow up single These Days, released via Big Dada, see's Samuel’s voice soaring over Kwes’ dreamlike production, with chiming electronics and propulsive drums conjuring childlike innocence and the throb of urban romance. There’s a balmy evening glow to the music, and a sense of new, shared sensation. Samuel describes the feeling the song summons as ‘that invisible pull that comes with a romantic attraction! My songs are about the fizz.’ Fittingly, there’s no better summary than Samuel’s own: ‘I always think of wee magic carpet rides over London'. “Hold tight, as we take a ride.”