I was turned on to the genre-splicing British music collective Sault in the Summer of 2020 during the protests against police violence that were organized across the globe. Particularly the joint "Wildfires" from the June 2020 release, "Untitled (Black Is)." Different rhythmed heartbeats, woven with the total capacity of the snare drum and a humbly confident bass, pace the haunting and joyous lyrics.
"Thief in the night/Tell the truth/White lives/Spreading lies
You should be ashamed/The bloodshed on your hands/Another man
Take off your badge/We all know it was murder/Murder, murder/Murder
We are dying, it's the reason we are crying/We are crying
But we will never show fear/Even in my eyes/I will always rise/In wildfires
I ain't never been scared/Even through my tears/I will always care/In wildfires"
Sault's first two albums, titled 5 and 7, were released within three months of each other, in February and May of 2019. As reported in the album reviews in Pace Magazine by Lizzie Manno,
"No one knew the identities of its musicians, and the albums were released on an independent label, but they drew rapturous acclaim from The Guardian, NPR, Bandcamp (who placed both albums at the number two spot on their extensive list of top 100 albums) and Paste (on our list of British Acts You Need to Know in 2020), plus they received radio play from the best tastemaker station in the U.S., KEXP."
Untitled (Black Is) continued the lyrical insights and analysis of a correlation of forces present in 2020 and a continuity of consequences and denials of past violence. When releasing the album, they included this statement: "We present our first 'Untitled' album to mark a moment in time where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives. RIP George Floyd and all those who have suffered from police brutality and systemic racism. Change is happening…We are focused." As much political theory and insightful social analysis, the stories of joy, rage, possibility, and hope were equally inciteful.
Though a bit more is known about this brilliant, humble, and polymathic musical phenomenon, their social media presence is limited to announcing when to scoop up a new album, often for a limited time. They have 15.3K Twitter followers while following no one. And no one, all of us no ones should not take that personally.
As reported in Dazed Digital,
"The line-up of artists working with Sault remains (for the most part) an enigma to listeners.Perhaps one of the reasons they remain such a point of interest in contemporary music is the fact they have made a point of never publicly naming many of their collaborators. A select few artists have been named in the liner notes of their discography, namely producer Inflo, alongside singers Michael Kiwanuka and Laurette Josiah (the latter is reportedly a social worker from south London). Cleo Sol has also been listed as a credited songwriter, unsurprising considering her and Sault are the only artists signed to their labels."
According to Far Out Magazine, Inflo is "the most influential and mysterious producer on the planet right now," with only seventeen Instagram posts.
On November 1, 2022, Sault announced on Twitter the release of a five-album set, accessible to anyone who could figure out the password.
"Here are 5 albums released as an offering to God. Available for free download for 5 days. The password to unlock all 5 albums is in the message."
Aiir (released in September), 11, Today & Tomorrow, Earth, and Untitled (God) offer hours of time-traveling sonic scapes of embracing and inspiring music of all genres. Repeat: all genres, everything between and beyond, adjacent and just out of reach. Everything. I won't even try to list the names. They have not been named yet.
It would be futile and arrogant to provide any defining characterizations of these five albums, so these few comments are simply admiration and thanks to these urgently necessary and pluriversally talented artists.
Soundtracks for space travel and Underground Railroads, Chants, incantations, operas, protest anthems, historical invocations, stories of the daily thriving and struggle of Black people on planet earth. The range and expanse, the deep imaginary of other worlds already here and yet to come at the same time, reminds me of Jared Sexton's powerful invocation, "Blackness is theory itself, anti-blackness the resistance to theory."
Eleven albums in three years. Straightforward, simple presentation, layered with gravity-bending melodies, harmonies, and choruses you will sing for days. The album covers are simple and straightforward, with no frill social media TwitTokInsta. Their album releases are like safe-guarded secrets, shared with comrades and kindred souls, like when college radio still thrived on word of mouth and local talent circulating through the circuits of on-the-ground, overground, and underground life.
With urgent rhythms and lyrics, stories, and exclamations, Sault'smusic demands beauty, safety, reconciliation, and an accounting of the violence of an anti-Black world; Saultis its sustenance. Nothing needs to be added. Please, pass the Sault.