Sault – New | Comments
from Sault the music intertwined with the events of 2020. The highly politicized future soul, the mystery inherent in the release – the identities of the studio’s conspirators were never fully sketched out – seemed to amplify the power of their artistry.
‘Nine’ is their first release in 2021, and it’s a project that seems haunted by the traumas of the past. Whether done in a subtle way – the tween of “Auld Lang Syne” on “London Gangs” for example – or the visceral monologue “Mike’s Story”, the project is about inward-facing anger and lingering impact that hurts both emotional and physical can have.
“London Gangs” takes up the raw and rhythmic rhythm that permeated the twin versions of Sault in 2020, “Untitled (Black Is)” and “Untitled (Rise)”. Much like Can’s “Mushroom” in communion with Erykah Badu’s “Mama’s Gun”, the hard-hitting ultra-dark kick is aligned with the testimony of the cyclical damage that gang culture produces in London. Indeed, self-inflicted harm, and its links to broader societal inequalities and discrimination, is a strong theme of the project – take the self-medication soliloquy âAlcoholâ or the sublime melancholy that animates âBitter Streetsâ.
Much more defined than their full albums, ‘Nine’ is deliberately left raw and open. Both sides of the project are framed by fragments: the 50-second âHahaâ and the brutal portrayal of grief that unfolds in âMike’s Storyâ. Sometimes totally straightforward, “Nine” always finds room to add a little light and play with notions of identity – experience Little Simz’s reinforced “You From London” and how it detaches itself from notions of life London to offer much-needed reality.
Perhaps the project ends with its two strongest moments. ‘9’ revolves around a neat guitar line taken straight from the Millennium R&B songbook, before a martial drum beat encroaches on the breathy voice, which promises “a miracle”. “Are you made of love?” he asks, before the music pulls away, leaving only that cyclic guitar line. – ‘Light’s In Your Hands’ is a wonderful R&B torch song, which emphatically discusses the need to keep moving, to keep trying, no matter the cost. Aligning staff with politics – âso many promises that turn into liesâ – this allows âNineâ to end with the possibility of change, if only for ourselves.
A project that struggles with complex ideas, ‘Nine’ never quite sets in. Master in his softness of touch, Sault knows how to apply and release pressure; at times it can be intense, still others are bathed in a blissful R&B halo. Facilitating the project outside the confines of these two excellent – and definitive – exits, ‘Nine’ is the point where Sault turns towards the sun.
Words: Robin murray
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